Technicity2013 Cybersecurity Panel: Is Canada Ready?

Andy Papadopulous of Navantis moderated a panel on the Canadian context of cybersecurity, with panelists Rob Meikle, CIO of City of Toronto; Ritesh Kotak, Operation Reboot (cybercrime initiative) at Toronto Police Service; Wesley Wark, professor at University of Ottawa’s graduate school of public and international affairs, and a specialist in national security policy; and Stephen McCammon, legal counsel at the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner.

They each spoke about their specific take on privacy and security in Canada:

Meikle: The interconnection and importance of data and technology, and how these are no longer just on computers inside our offices any more: in addition to cloud computing, we consume information on mobile devices, but also collect and process information from remote devices such as transit vehicles. He addressed the Toronto open data initiative, and how it is critical to look at data from a public citizen perspective rather than an organizational perspective: similar views would not go amiss in private sector organizations and their data.

Kotak: How TPS is having to redefine crime in the era of cybercrime, and how the police force is having to adapt in order to track down online crimes in the same way that they do with “real world” crimes in order to protect public safety. His experience in researching how police services are addressing cybercrime is that many of them equated it only with child exploitation (driven, likely, by the federal government tendency to do the same in order to justify their over-reaching anti-privacy legislation that we heard about from Michael Geist earlier), but there are obviously many other forms of cybercrime, from financial to hacking pacemakers. They identified a number of areas that they needed to address with respect to cybercrime: overt communication (e.g., social media), investigations, covert operations, and policies and procedures.

Wark: Cyberaggression and its impact on us, with five possible outlets: cyberwar, cyberterrorism, cyber covert operations, cyberespionage and cybercrime. He feels that the first two do not actually exist, that covert operations is an emerging area, while espionage and crime are well-established cyber activities. He maintains that the government’s focus on terrorism in general is a bit ridiculous, considering the lack of any evidence that this is occurring or even imminent (a recent US study showed that Americans are more likely to be killed by their own furniture than by terrorism); and that the government has a difficult time establishing their role and responsibilities in cybersecurity beyond throwing out some simplistic barriers around classified government data. We need to do more with private-public partnerships and education — starting with some simple sharing of best practices — in order to appropriately address all forms of cyberaggression. We need to decide what we really mean by privacy, then define the legal framework for protecting that.

McCammon: How to achieve the balance between privacy and openness. Usability is critical: it’s not just enough to have good authentication, encryption and other services to protect people’s privacy; those tools need to be easy enough for everyone to use (or completely and transparently embedded in other platforms), although Wark challenged that that was unlikely to happen. More information is being gathered, and will continue to be gathered, and analytics allow that to be integrated in new ways; there is no putting the toothpaste back in that particular tube, so we need to learn to deal with it in ways that protect us without requiring us to pull the plug and move to the woods. Trust is essential for privacy (although I would add that enforcement of that trust is pretty critical, too).

Good discussion.

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