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Canada now a centre of cyber-crime, notes suggest

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OTTAWA -- The Public Safety Department worries Canada is becoming a digital launching pad for -- not just a target of -- malicious cyber-activities, confidential briefing notes reveal.

Traditionally, most cyber-criminals plot their online schemes in places such as Eastern Europe, East Asia and Africa, say departmental notes prepared for a closed-door meeting of the Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security.

"This may be shifting to more developed countries such as Canada, the U.S. and France -- countries with good reputations," say the notes, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

"Plainly said, we may be moving from being mostly 'targets' of organized cyber-crime hosted in outside jurisdictions, to 'hosts' of online cyber-crime operations and activities."

The notes were drafted for an introductory discussion by Brett Kubicek, Public Safety's manager of research and academic relations, at the roundtable's June meeting.

The roundtable, which comprises members of various ethnic backgrounds, tries to foster dialogue on security issues between government officials and minority communities.

"When it comes to cyberspace, it's likely that the flow of questions facing policy-makers will continue to outpace readily available and clear solutions for the foreseeable future," say Kubicek's notes.

His comments followed an explicit warning from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service about homegrown websites that support and incite terrorist violence.

They also echoed findings of digital security company Websense, which singled out Canada as a breeding ground for Internet nastiness in its two latest annual surveys.

Last spring, Websense said Canada ranked No. 2 in the world -- ahead of prime offenders Egypt and Russia -- for hosted phishing sites that lure unsuspecting people into providing information such as credit card numbers.

"Across the board, we're seeing all types of malicious content coming out of the Great White North," the company said in May.

"Even after last year's discovery, we still have not seen any big takedowns of malicious sites in Canada. In fact, malicious sites seem to stay up longer than in other countries."

In July it was reported that Farsi-speaking hackers used four cyber-bases in Canada to steal confidential materials from hundreds of government officials and businesspeople in Afghanistan, Iran and Israel.

The roundtable proceedings indicate Canadian officials are just beginning to grapple with a problem that will grow.

In his remarks, Kubicek noted the "ever-expanding mismatch" between the growing online dimension of Canadian lives and the body of laws, regulations and policies developed largely for an "offline" world.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 10, 2012 A13

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