State-sponsored programs from China, Russia, Iran and North Korea pose the greatest high-tech threats to Canada, a report from the nation's authority on cyber security warned Wednesday, saying it feared foreign actors could try to disrupt power supplies.
"The number of cyber threat actors is rising, and they are becoming more sophisticated", the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) and its Canadian Center for Cyber Security said.
The center found that those four countries are very likely attempting to build up capacities to disrupt key Canadian infrastructure -- like the electricity supply -- to further their goals.
The report said they are also expected to target intellectual property related to the battle against the coronavirus pandemic in order to boost their own response to the contagion.
Threats against Canadians and their companies include cyber spying and online influence campaigns.
"The most sophisticated capabilities belong to state sponsored cyber threat actors who are motivated by economic, ideological, and geopolitical goals," the center said.
"We assess that almost certainly the state-sponsored programs of China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea pose the greatest state-sponsored cyber threats to Canadian individuals and organizations," it added.
That said, many other states are rapidly developing their own cyber threats.
State-sponsored attackers are expected to continue to "conduct commercial espionage against Canadian businesses, academia, and governments", the center said.
It further warned that the pandemic has led to a jump in teleworking and online activity in general for Canadians, a trend that will continue and could expose people to an evolving array of cyber threats.
Canadians lost over Can$43 million (US$32.8 million) to cybercrime fraud in 2019, according to statistics from the Canadian AntiFraud Center.
CSE is probing whether China's Huawei Technologies Co Ltd can supply equipment for next-generation 5G networks. The United States and other close allies have moved to block Huawei, saying its gear could contain backdoors allowing access for spies.
"State-sponsored actors are very likely attempting to develop the additional cyber capabilities required to disrupt the supply of electricity,” it said.
In 2019, Russian-associated actors probed US and Canadian electricity utilities, it added.