2019: Cyber Threats to Canada’s Democratic Process

Executive Summary

Here’s what you need to know in 2019:
In 2018, half of all advanced democracies holding national elections had their democratic process targeted by cyber threat activity. This represents about a threefold increase since 2015 and we expect the upward trend to continue in 2019.

 €Foreign cyber interference – interference activity enabled by cyber tools – targeting voters has become the most common type of cyber threat activity against democratic processes worldwide. Cyber threat actors manipulate online information, often using cyber tools, in order to influence voters’ opinions and behaviours.

€ We judge it very likely that Canadian voters will encounter some form of foreign cyber interference
related to the 2019 federal election. However, at this time, it is improbable that this foreign cyber interference will be of the scale of Russian activity against the 2016 United States presidential election.

€ We judge it very likely that foreign cyber interference against Canada would resemble activity undertaken against other advanced democracies in recent years. Foreign adversaries have attempted to sway the ideas and decisions of voters by focusing on polarizing social and political issues, promoting the popularity of one party over another, or trying to shape the public statements and policy choices of a candidate.

€ Since our 2017 report, political parties, candidates, and their staff have continued to be targeted worldwide by cyber threat activity – though to a lesser extent than voters. Cyber threat actors use cyber tools to target the websites, e-mail, social media accounts, and the networks and devices of political parties, candidates, and their staff.

€ Elections around the world have also continued to be targeted by cyber threat activity over the past years. However, as we noted in 2017, Canada’s federal elections are largely paper-based and Elections Canada has a number of legal, procedural, and information technology (IT) measures in place that provide very robust protections against attempts to covertly change the official vote count.