In his first public speech in three years, the head of Canada's spy agency, David Vigneault, claimed that Canadian business in almost every sector of the economy is under threat from hostile foreign actors, primarily Russia and China.
"The threat from hostile activity by state actors in all its forms represents a significant danger to Canada's prosperity and sovereignty," Vigneault said in a speech online this week for the Centre for International Governance Innovation, Global News reported.
He claimed that an investigation did "reveal" that what he called a "threat" caused "significant harm to Canadian companies", noting that Canada’s biopharmaceutical, health, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, ocean technology and aerospace sectors have been particularly targeted.
"[Canadian businesses] have been compromised and have suffered losses from human and cyber-enabled threats … CSIS has observed persistent and sophisticated state-sponsored threat activity for many years now and we continue to see a rise in the frequency and sophistication of this threat activity,” he continued.
During his speech, Vigneault specifically referred to Russia and China as threatening foreign actors.
"It is no secret that we are most concerned about the actions by the governments of countries like Russia and China. But we should also not discount that threat activity evolves and can originate from anywhere in the world," he noted, adding that hostile actors target employees, students, professors, contractors and business associates to obtain access to an organization’s IT systems.
"An insider acting at the behest of a threat actor can compromise a system and cause damage, or open a backdoor to allow access from across the street or across the ocean. They can steal information outright, and walk it out the door on a flash drive," Vigneault explained.
In his speech, Vigneault clarified that the threat does not come from the people of Chinese or the nation as a whole, but rather “from the government of China that is pursuing a strategy for geopolitical advantage on all fronts - economic, technological, political, and military,” Coast Mountain News reported.
Beijing and other foreign governments threaten countries through various state entities and non-state proxies like the Chinese government’s Operation Fox Hunt operation, Vigneault explained. The global operation allegedly targets corruption but “is also believed to have been used to target and quiet dissidents to the regime,” he added.
This is not for the first time when representatives of foreign intelligence agencies and Canadian in particular naming Russia and China among national security threats - claim that have never been substantiated by any evidence and in separate occasions denied by Beijing and Moscow.
In November 2020, the country’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE) intelligence agency claimed in a report that China, Russia, Iran and North Korea pose the greatest cybersecurity threat to Canada.