The government of Canada is not happy with China. On Tuesday, Canadian government officials pointed their collective finger at "a highly sophisticated Chinese state-sponsored actor" they said is responsible for launching a cyberattack on its National Research Council (NRC).
The NRC is the leading governmental research organization in that country. As a precaution, the Canadian government said it has isolated the NRC computers from the rest of the government's networks. The NRC is working on implementing a new secure network for the agency, but that might be as long as a year away.
In a statement, Canada's CIO Corinne Charette said that the government had "no evidence that data compromises have occurred on the broader government of Canada network."
'Full and Frank Exchange'
Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, according to governmental spokesman Baird spokesman Adam Hodge, has had "a full and frank exchange of views" with his counterpart, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Additionally, Hodge said that "the government takes this issue very seriously and we are addressing it at the highest levels in both Beijing and Ottawa."
Baird is currently in China as part of a tour of Asian countries, but a press briefing scheduled for today has been cancelled suddenly without reason. However, a spokesman from his office said that the Canadians are guests in the country, and so have not cancelled any events.
There is no word yet on the particulars of the attack -- what was compromised, when it happened, or how it was countered.
But there are indications that the level of the attack was very serious. Michel Juneau-Katsuya, formerly a Canadian intelligence officer and currently head of an Ottawa-based security firm, told The Wall Street Journal that "the attack was likely so significant that the only alternative was to shut down the entire system to prevent any more sucking of information."
This is not the first time that China was officially implicated in a cyberattack on Canada. In the fall of 2012, the Canadian government said that an attack had been conducted on a developer of software used by energy companies in that country, but officials would not comment on reports by commercial security specialists that the attack came from a group in China.
In early 2011, the Canadian government took its Finance Department and Treasury Board offline, after an attack had compromised confidential information. Additionally, there were attacks on the Department of National Defence, a civilian agency that helps provide scientific and tech services to the Canadian military. The attacks on the finance agencies and the Department of National Defence were both traced to hackers in China.
The current Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, has held China at arm's length because of what he said were human rights concerns, but business interests have led him to begin reaching out.
The Chinese government has not yet responded to the charges with any comments. On previous occasions, it has denied any suggestions that it is involved in assisting, supporting or managing such attacks.