Canada’s top spy warns foreign espionage as great a threat as terrorism

December 5, 2018 GMT

In his first public speech, Canada’s top intelligence official warned that cyber espionage poses as great a strategic challenge to international security as terrorism.

“Terrorism has understandably occupied a significant portion of our collective attention for almost two decades,” said David Vigneault, head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).

“Nevertheless,” he added, “other national security threats, such as foreign interference, cyber threats and espionage, pose greater strategic challenges and must also be addressed.”

Speaking at the Economic Club of Canada in Toronto on Tuesday, Mr. Vigneault explained that hostile foreign intelligence services are gathering political, economic, commercial and military information in Canada in addition to targeting major firms and universities to obtain new technologies.

“Activities by hostile states can have a corrosive effect on our democratic systems and institutions,” he added.

Next-generation 5G mobile networks were also a major worry. While Mr. Vigneault did not name a specific nation, Western governments have voiced increasing concerns over what they allege to be Chinese state involvement in 5G smartphone networks, especially the telecom giant Huawei.

Recent months have seen three of the countries among the U.S.’s intelligence-sharing partners known as the “Five Eyes” Canada, the U.K., Australia and New Zealand barring Huawei 5G wireless infrastructure out of fears that Chinese intelligence services could piggyback on the technology.

On Monday, the head of MI6 the U.K’s Secret Intelligence Service publicly raised security concerns about using Huawei in Britain’s communications infrastructure.

The U.S., Australia and New Zealand have taken steps to stop using Huawei equipment. Canada and Britain are still conducting security reviews.