Canada’s ‘Nimble’ Cyber Intelligence Is ‘Deepest of the 5 Eyes’: British Study

Canada may not always punch above its weight in international affairs but it sure does when it comes to cyber intelligence!

This piece first appeared in the Epoch Times Canada on December 13, 2023.

The world of espionage is indeed a murky one. Popular images usually involve a figure in a trench coat and a low-slung hat lurking on a street corner on a misty evening either following someone or waiting to meet a source to gather information to save the world. 

The real world of subterfuge is a little different—sorry fans of James Bond!—although we have on occasion saved the world from various forms of evil.

Those of us who toiled in secret occupations did our best to collect, process, analyze, and confirm information obtained from a variety of sensitive sources to help our political masters make better decisions and policies (that those same masters ignored us, as was painfully shown in Canada when it came to solid intelligence on Chinese interference in our 2019 and 2021 elections, is not our fault: we are just the messengers—please don’t shoot us!).

Alas, the news about our intelligence professionals and law enforcement organizations in Canada of late has been nothing but negative–and alarming. Whether it is allegations of rape and “systemic racism” at CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) or calls for massive overhaul at the RCMP, the public is being led to believe that there is rot to the very core of these agencies.

From what I am hearing from my sources, these stories are having a seriously detrimental effect on morale and are affecting recruitment efforts. That conclusions are drawn before all the facts are in is unfortunate, but that is human nature for you. 

This is why a good news story on our intelligence professionals is a welcome gush of fresh air.

A five-yearstudy by the British House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee noted recently that Canada plays a “leading role” in cybersecurity in the Five Eyes intelligence partnership, the members of whom are Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the U.S. Canada’s electronic spy agency, Communications Security Establishment (CSE), was described as “nimble” and more advanced in some areas than they are, notably in cybersecurity where Canada is “at the head of the pack.” (Note that I worked at the CSE from 1983 to 2001 as a multilingual intelligence analyst and did stints in cryptanalysis, collection, and signals development.)

Wait, there’s more.

“Canada has been with us at the head of the pack on cybersecurity and our relationship on cybersecurity is extremely strong and deep,“ said the document. ”It’s the deepest of the 5 Eyes actually and they have pioneered some things that we are using, including how you monitor for threats across government, and similarly we’ve shared capability in the other direction.”

Wow! That is some praise coming from our British allies who are much more mature when it comes to intelligence speaks volumes, and should tell Canadians that our protectors are not only capable and competent but acting as world leaders when it comes to the very real threats posed in the cyber realm. I have yet to see a significant acknowledgment of this achievement in the public domain. 

One challenge all these bodies have is how to parade their successes openly. The nature of their work prohibits full disclosure: compromised sources have a nasty tendency to disappear. As a consequence, the ensuing vacuum gets filled by those with an axe to grind, an agenda to fill, or “national security experts” with little to no actual experience in intelligence operations. The public therefore does not get the whole story and is left with an inaccurate and troublingly negative view of the important work these organisations perform on our behalf. 

To my former colleagues at CSE: congratulations! Thank you for the dedication you exhibit to keep Canada safe from its enemies. I wish you all the best moving forward. 

And to the average Canadian: not all is rotten in the Kingdom of Canada’s spies. 

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.