CSIS Warns Energy Companies of Increased Risk of Cyber EspionageFebruary 8, 2017 in Canada
According to a classified document, Canada’s main spy agency, CSIS, last year warned energy companies about an increase risk of cyber espionage and attacks on pipelines, oil storage and shipment facilities and power transmission towers using homemade explosives.
The warning, which was made in May last year by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) highlights an additional risk for the energy sector, where opposition to pipelines has increased in Canada and the United States. Reuters, which has seen the document under access-to-information law, has reported that it features speaking notes prepared for a CSIS briefing with energy and utilities sectors stakeholders, adding that an unidentified official specifies a threat from foreign state-owned firms looking for confidential information about investments or takeovers. The official disclosed in the document “you should expect your networks to be hit if you are involved in any significant financial interactions with certain foreign states.” The official went on to say in the document that the hackers would want information on anything from valuations to tax records and clients names. The official stated that the agency had collected evidence of such espionage in the past. The document also warned that the sector was “vulnerable to explosives” and identified potential targets. In the document, the CSIS official referred to “terrorist attacks” since 2014 in Canada and abroad, stating that even large-scale attacks are “technically simple.”
The document, parts of which were obscured for security reasons, did not show the foreign states whose companies may be linked to industrial espionage or their purported Canadian victims. A spokeswoman for Public Safety Canada, which oversees CSIS, stated that there had been “growth in attempted cyber attacks,” however she declined to comment on the specific incidents or threats, citing the demands of privacy and national security.
In 2012, CSIS told the Canadian government that takeovers by Chinese companies may threaten national security. At the time, China’s state-owned CNOOC Ltd had bid for Canadian producer Nexen Inc. Last year, five oil pipelines carrying Canadian crude in the US were halted in coordinated attacks by environmental protesters. The attacks demonstrated the ease with which people with no technical expertise can disrupt the industry. While energy companies already use surveillance cameras, helicopters, remote sensors and drones in order to monitor some 119,00 km (74,000 miles) of pipelines across the country, which carry 3.4 million barrels of crude a day, and have an agreement to collaborate during an emergency, security experts and energy industry officials have said that it is impossible to lower the threat to zero.