The National Research Council, Canada’s premier science and engineering institution, says it’s been hit by a “cyber incident” – a disruption that comes two months after the country’s foreign ministry suffered a computer network malfunction widely regarded as a cyber attack.
The National Research Council (NRC) has not yet provided details of what happened but a notice on the agency’s website on Monday said parts of its Internet presence were taken offline “due to a cyber incident.”
The phrase “cyber incident” is regularly used by Canadian government cyber security officials to refer to “any unauthorized attempt” to “to gain access to, modify, destroy, delete, or render unavailable any computer network or system resource.”
In January, Canada’s cyberspy agency warned of possible Moscow-backed cyberattacks on Canadian critical infrastructure, as Western countries prepared economic sanctions against Russia for its buildup of troops near Ukraine. That risk has only risen as the West hit Moscow with crippling sanctions following its invasion of Ukraine in late February.
NRC staff were not immediately able to say whether this cyber attack came from Russia or individuals and organizations associated with the Russian government.
In January, Canada’s Department of Global Affairs was hit by a cyber attack that left the ministry’s access to the Internet hobbled for more than a month.
The NRC has previously been targeted by foreign hackers. In 2014, the Canadian government publicly blamed China for a cyberattack on the research agency, reporting that computers at the National Research Council were breached and pointing the finger at “a highly sophisticated Chinese state-sponsored actor.”
Canada is far from the only target. In February, it emerged that Britain’s foreign ministry was the target of a serious cybersecurity incident earlier in 2022, according to tender documents posted on the U.K. government’s website.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office was forced to call in BAE Systems Applied Intelligence to deal with the incident, according to the documents.
In January, Canada’s Cyber Centre, part of the Communications Security Establishment, joined its counterparts in the United States and Britain in urging Canadian companies, such as electrical utilities and energy firms, to watch out for cyberattacks from Russia.
The agency said in a statement that it is aware of foreign cyberthreat activities, including by Russian-backed actors, to target operators of Canadian critical infrastructure networks and their operational and information technology.
More to come
Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.