Digital security is a threat area which is becoming increasingly important for everyone – including the government. If you’ve been following our weekly data breach headlines here, you certainly know that no organization or business is safe from a cyberattack.

Realizing this, the American government authorized the creation of a dedicated cyberwarfare unit in 2009 for American cyber defense, which many other nations have also done. However, many nations have also started using these cyberunits to facilitate offensive cyberattacks against rival states.

Some notable incidents of these foreign-sponsored cyberattacks include Chinese theft of intellectual property, Iranian denial-of-service attacks against North American financial institutions, and perhaps most famously, Russian meddling in the 2016 American presidential elections.

But why should you care about this?

After all, these state level attacks happen between governments – or do they?

What most of us tend to forget that a key part of the strategy behind these attacks is to reduce the competitive threat our nation poses to them through attacking our private sectors.

For instance, by stealing our intellectual property, China is able to compete better with Canadian companies. By targeting American elections, Russia was able to undermine the trust we place in both our democratic processes and our technology.

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In these cases, foreign states used attacks against the North American private sector to achieve these goals. Tom Robertson, one of the founding partners at IdentityFirst, wrote about this phenomenon in a recent publication, stating: “Many geopolitical rivals, notably Iran, North Korea, China and Russia, view the private sector as a legitimate target and they see successful attacks as advancing their geopolitical objectives.” (Feel free to check the paper).

This emerging phenomena of foreign attacks against both the public and private sectors is a trend which should be on Canadian’s minds given the upcoming election cycle. While most political analysts consider there to be less incentive for foreign meddling in the upcoming Canadian elections than for meddling in the American election, the dialogue and promises of campaigning politicians surrounding cybersecurity should be considered when heading to the ballot box. Given the recent high-profile data breaches from Desjardins and Capital One, as well as increasing tensions with countries such as China and Russia, cybersecurity threats look to be a threat which will influence Canadians from all walks of life in the coming years.