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Cyberattack knocks Canadian government websites offline
Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney says no personal information was compromised during the attack claimed by Anonymous in retaliation for Bill C-51.
June 17, 2015
Alex Boutilier

The federal government’s networks were hit with a large-scale cyberattack on Wednesday, shutting down websites and internal networks for hours.

A group under the banner of hacking collective Anonymous claimed responsibility for the denial of service attacks, calling them a protest against the Conservative government’s new controversial terror laws.
“Bill C-51 targets minority groups and dissidents alike, both being strong parts of a healthy democracy,” the group’s statement read. “Do we bow down and obey what has become totalitarian rule?”

The source of the attack is difficult to verify, but targets match up with those discussed on an Anonymous Internet chat room. The channel continued to monitor the fallout of the attacks late into the afternoon.

Targets listed include the senators who recently voted for the bill, a number of government websites and — the website of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, whose party voted for the bill.

The attacks were what are known as directed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, where hackers flood a website with traffic to deny regular access. Such attacks only temporarily shut down websites, not permanently compromise or harvest information from them.

DDoS attacks have been likened to sit-in protests in the digital age by some academics studying Anonymous and online movements; a temporary inconvenience to draw attention to a cause.

“At no point was personal information compromised,” Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney told reporters late Wednesday afternoon, while reiterating the federal government has had a cybersecurity plan in place for a number of years.

That plan got a boost in the most recent federal budget, which pledged $58 million over five years to enhance “the security of Government of Canada networks and cyber systems.”

The government is also preparing legislation to partner with private industry to protect “vital cyber systems” from malicious hackers.

But an internal government document obtained by the Star last year showed Ottawa was vulnerable to large-scale cyberattacks, and had no coherent plan to deal with them.

After confirming the attack Wednesday afternoon, Treasury Board President Tony Clement directed his Twitter followers to call 1-800-O-Canada should they need government services.

One user associated with the Anonymous Twitter account that was a great idea.

“Everyone call 1-800-O-Canada and demand online privacy,” they wrote.