CSIS director David Vigneault, the head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, warns that China is undermining Canada through its efforts to steal valuable technology. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

CSIS director David Vigneault, the head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, warns that China is undermining Canada through its efforts to steal valuable technology. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Spy chief says China undermining Canada through cyberespionage efforts

‘We all must strengthen our defences,’ warns head of Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)

The head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service warns that China is undermining Canada through its efforts to steal valuable technology and silence critics of Beijing’s policies.

In a speech Tuesday sponsored by the Centre for International Governance Innovation, CSIS director David Vigneault said all sectors of Canadian society must work together to fend off these threats.

“To be clear, the threat does not come from the Chinese people, but rather from the government of China that is pursuing a strategy for geopolitical advantage on all fronts — economic, technological, political, and military,” Vigneault said.

He bluntly stated that Beijing is “using all events, all elements of state power, to carry out activities that are a direct threat to our national security and sovereignty.”

“We all must strengthen our defences.”

Vigneault says ill-intentioned countries will aim to “take advantage” of Canada as it works to get back on its economic feet once the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.

RELATED: Audit reveals B.C. health authority isn’t effectively managing cybersecurity threat on medical devices

Among the sectors of Canada’s economy most vulnerable to state-sponsored cyberespionage are biopharmaceuticals and health, artificial intelligence, quantum computing and aerospace, Vigneault said.

These technologies are largely developed within academia in small startups, which are attractive targets because they have modest security protections and are more likely to pursue collaborations that can, and sadly are, exploited by other countries, he said.

“Investigations reveal that this threat has unfortunately caused significant harm to Canadian companies,” Vigneault said.

“Collectively, it jeopardizes Canada’s knowledge-based economy. When our most innovative technology and know-how is lost, it is our country’s future that is being stolen.”

Federal officials openly say that China has the capacity to conduct foreign interference in Canada by applying pressure and influence in a clandestine and deceptive way to pursue its strategic objectives.

They say China and certain other foreign nations routinely threaten and intimidate people around the world through various state entities and non-state proxies.

One notable example of this is the Chinese government’s covert global operation, known as Operation Fox Hunt, which claims to target corruption “but is also believed to have been used to target and quiet dissidents to the regime,” Vigneault said.

“Those threatened often lack the resources to defend themselves and are unaware that they can report these activities to Canadian authorities, including CSIS.”

In addition, state-sponsored disinformation campaigns have seized on the COVID-19 pandemic to sow confusion and distrust, the Canadian government says.

cybersecuritySecurity

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An Island Health nurse prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo courtesy Island Health)
Health authority opening 19 clinics to immunize Vancouver Island residents

Health authority anticipates more than 40,000 people will be immunized over the next month

Debra Lynn photo
Mysterious smoke cloud seen in Seavac Centre

Fire crews did a thorough sweep of the centre.

North Island Gazette file photo of Port McNeill council.
Heated conversation occurs at Port McNeill council over policy request

Port McNeill mayor Gaby Wickstrom wants to see a change in the… Continue reading

The Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)
The Port Alice pulp mill site is being ‘recycled’

Bankruptcy company is overseeing de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring.

Port Hardy Senior Citizens’ Society president Rosaline Glynn holds up the certificate from B.C. Premier John Horgan next to Loaves & Fishes director Peter Sinclair, vice president Kris Huddlestan, and Port Hardy mayor Dennis Dugas. (Submitted photo)
Port Hardy council to nominate Glynn for the Order of British Columbia

Glynn’s nomination was endorsed unanimously by council.

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is administered to a personal support worker at the Ottawa Hospital on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020 in Ottawa. Doctors in Alberta have signed an open letter asking for prioritized vaccination of health-care staff who work directly with patients on dedicated COVID-19 units. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
COVID vaccines for seniors in B.C.: Here’s how to sign up

Seniors 90+, Indigenous seniors 65+ and Indigenous Elders can book starting March 8

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Vaccine hesitancy decreases in B.C. as mass immunizations set to begin: poll

Two-thirds of British Columbians, and Canadians, would get the vaccine as soon as possible

Software engineer Shaimma Yehia, 40, has been forced to re-skill during the COVID-19 pandemic after more than six years of unsuccessfully applying for jobs in B.C.’s tech industry. (Submitted photo/Shaimma Yehia)
Why skilled immigrant women continue to be shut out of B.C.’s booming tech sector

Experienced software engineer Shaimma Yehia, 40, hasn’t found a job since she migrated to Canada 6 years ago

Ron Sivorot, business director at Kennametal’s Langford site, the Greater Victoria facility that made a component being used on NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars. (Jake Romphf, Black Press Media)
NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover digging in with B.C.-made part

Kennametal’s Langford plant’s tooth blank is helping the rover’s drill collect rock cores

A woman walks through Toronto’s financial district on Monday, July 30, 2018. A new poll suggests most Canadians believe there’s still a long way to go to achieve gender equality in this country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Canadians, especially women, say gender equality not achieved in Canada: Poll

Poll results themselves underscore the challenge, with more men believing equality had been achieved

This image provided by Harpo Productions shows Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, left, in conversation with Oprah Winfrey. (Joe Pugliese/Harpo Productions via AP)
Race, title and anguish: Meghan and Harry explain royal rift

Meghan said she struggled with concerns within the royal family about her son’s skin colour

Const. Allan Young. Photo: Abbotsford Police Department
Manslaughter charge laid in Nelson death of Abbotsford police officer

Allan Young died after an incident in downtown Nelson last summer

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

Most Read