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Cyber and Hybrid Threats to Canada and Its Allies

Mar 18, 2019
Brent Dowdall
Senior Manager, Research and Business Development

Cyber security threats are now considered a global security concern on par with traditional conventional military threats. Our interconnected world means that cyber threats and hybrid warfare incorporate a complex mix of hostile actors and a wide range of tactics. The rapid evolution of technology, combined with the ability of attackers to quickly adopt new offensive tools and techniques, further exacerbates the threat. Open liberal democracies have an interest in overcoming the risks of cyber attacks—to protect the critical infrastructure we rely on, personal privacy and business continuity, and even democratic institutions themselves.

The Government of Canada is developing cyber capabilities to protect the country from virtual threats and to work within defence alliances. Among its key partners should be European countries, working both within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and with the European Union (EU) itself.

With Europe on the front lines of hostile state and non-state actors, the EU has taken a more assertive role in organizing its own cyber security defences and those of its member states. The EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) initiative has put cyber security at the top of the priority list for greater collaboration and cooperation among member states.

The Cyber Rapid Response Teams (CRRT) and Mutual Assistance in Cyber Security project is among the most advanced of the projects under the PESCO initiative. CRRT will allow member states to help each other to ensure higher level of cyber resilience and to collectively respond to cyber incidents. Lithuania leads the EU cooperation project in cyber defence, with eight more EU member states—Estonia, Spain, Croatia, Poland, Netherlands, France, Romania, and Finland—participating in the project (Belgium, Greece, Slovenia, and Germany are observers of the project).

The aim of this project is to integrate the expertise among member states in the field of cyber defence. The rapid response teams are able to assist with training, diagnostics, and attribution forensics, and to provide assistance in operations.

At the 5th European Union Security and Defence Symposium, held in Ottawa on March 20, 2019, the panel session PESCO in Action: Confronting Hybrid/Cyber Threats will outline the progress being made on the CRRT and how Canada and the EU can work together to strengthen our shared responsibilities in the field of cyber threats. The Conference Board of Canada is a partner in developing the program for the event. Participants include senior EU officials, Canadian governments officials, and experts from both sides of the Atlantic.

Canada is far from exempt from the potential consequences of cyber threats. The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security’s most recent threat assessment says that 2019 could be a particularly harrowing year for Canadian individuals, businesses, and institutions.1

Given the high and rising threat of cyber attacks, it is also important to promote the concept of cyber resilience. Unlike cyber security, which is usually very focused on prevention and protection, cyber resilience recognizes that successful cyber attacks may be inevitable. Therefore, cyber resilience promotes the need to ensure organizations can maintain critical functions and quickly return to normal in the wake of an attack. Improving organizational cyber resilience will be the focus of the Conference Board’s Cyber Security 2019: Building and Testing Cyber Resilience conference.

As governments and businesses alike face new threats, decision-makers and organizational leaders need to stay up to date on the latest cyber-security trends. Ongoing research and dialogue—by sharing the successes, weaknesses, and learnings—is perhaps the most effective defensive weapon we can collectively wield against these threats.


Related Conference

Cyber Security 2019: Building and Testing Cyber Resilience
May 27, 2019, Toronto



1    Cindy Baker, “Canada Is a Prime Target for Cybersecurity Attacks in 2019.” IT World Canada, January 16, 2019.


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