CSIS Director Warns of Increasing State-Sponsored Espionage, Including 5G Networks

Canada’s top spy warned of the increasing danger of foreign state-sponsored commercial espionage.

A new report from The Globe and Mail explains that Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) director David Vigneault gave a strong warning to business leaders yesterday, explaining that state-sponsored commercial espionage is a threat to the Canadian economy.

Vigneault said that terrorism remained the “number one national security-related danger to public safety in this country,” while calling espionage and foreign interference “the greatest threat to our prosperity and national interest.”

“We have to be mindful that hostile states will use any means to recruit people, project their influence and gain access to our proprietary information,” said Vigneault. “No matter how it’s done or who’s behind it, economic espionage represents a long-term threat to Canada’s economy and our prosperity.”

The CSIS leader explained that the agency has seen an uptick in state-sponsored espionage in emerging technological fields such as artificial intelligence, 5G technology, biopharmaceuticals, and quantum technology.

“CSIS has seen a trend of state-sponsored espionage in fields that are crucial to Canada’s ability to build and sustain a prosperous, knowledge-based economy,” he said. “I’m talking about areas such as AI [artificial intelligence], quantum technology, 5G, biopharma, and clean tech. In other words, the foundation of Canada’s future growth.”

U.S. intelligence agencies have warned its allies about 5G network equipment from China’s Huawei, deemed susceptible to possible espionage. Companies in Canada using Huawei hardware include Telus for 5G and Bell for Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH).

Vigneault said that while traditional foreign spy interference is still a priority, cyber espionage is a growing problem.

“Traditional interference by foreign spies remains the greatest danger, but interference using cyber means is a growing concern,” he said. “The scale, speed, range and impact of foreign interference has grown as a result of the internet, social media platforms and the availability of cheaper and more accessible cyber tools.”

David Vigneault became the ninth Director of the CSIS in June 2017. Read his entire remarks here.