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Source: Toronto Star

Posted on February 16, 2011

The federal government has stepped up its cyber security after detecting what it calls an unauthorized attempt to access its networks.

CBC News reports that the attack has forced at least two key departments offline as counter-espionage agents scramble to determine how much sensitive information may have been stolen - and who stole it.

The attack on the federal computer network appears widespread - including possible breaches of data at Treasury Board of Canada and Finance Canada - and originated in China, according to CBC's sources.

Reports said the hackers were able to penetrate the networks within the two departments - the economic hubs of the government - and gain access to classified federal data.

The hackers reportedly infiltrated the computer systems as part of a scheme to steal key passwords that unlock entire government data systems. A spokesperson for Treasury Board President Stockwell Day confirmed there has been an attempt to breach federal networks but was tight-lipped on the extent of the breach.

"(Treasury Board) has detected an unauthorized attempt to access its network," Jay Denney said in an email. "Officials responsible for security have taken appropriate action in response to the threat, in line with the government security policy.

"There are no indications that any data relating to Canadians was compromised by this unauthorized attempt to access the (Treasury Board) network." The Government of Canada has plans in place to prevent, minimize and address the impacts of cyber threats, Denney said.

As a result of the breach, federal employees are being limited in their access to the Internet. Earlier this month, sources told theĘToronto StarĘthat the Treasury Board had severely restricted Internet use because of an undisclosed threat.

Department employees were told the Internet would be restricted for a month due to a "threat," but they were not told what the threat was. At the time, the government said it was a mere attempt to access federal networks.

Board employees had their internet use restricted to federal government sites only and were asked to submit a list to Treasury Board secretary Michelle d'Auray's office of Internet sites they believe are central to their jobs.

Just last October, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews launched a program to better protect the Canadian government from cyber threats. The announcement included $3.5 million for a 24-hour "Information Protection Centre" to combat all types of hackers and cyber attacks.

"But just as cyberspace is constantly evolving, so, too, are the cyber threats to our security, prosperity and quality of life. It's time to take protection of Canada's cyberspace to the next level," Toews said at the time.

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