#CyberFLASH: Canada’s secret bid to stop Russian hackers

n-ONLINE-SPYING-largeCanada last year quietly funded a $3.7-million program to provide cybersecurity training and software to Ukraine in response to cyberattacks by hackers linked to pro-Russian organizations, and possibly to the Russian government itself.

The contract was awarded to Arcadia Labs Inc., also known as Arc4dia, a cybersecurity company whose executive team includes at least two former employees of Communications Security Establishment, Canada’s signals intelligence agency, and two veterans of the Canadian Forces.

The government revealed the contract in a quarterly disclosure of grants and contribution awards over $25,000, but never publicly announced it due to what Amy Mills, a spokeswoman for Global Affairs Canada, described in an email as “security concerns.”

“Due to the hostile cyberenvironment in Ukraine, the disclosure of the specific training and tools would jeopardize the effectiveness of the project activities, and results achieved to date, and the government of Ukraine would be at even greater risk of more sophisticated cyberattacks and other hostile actions,” she wrote in a separate email.

Mills said security concerns also prevented her from divulging details of the project, though she and a different spokeswoman later provided broad outlines. The project, said Rachna Mishra, was funded through the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development’s Global Peace and Security Fund and stemmed from an unsolicited proposal by Arc4dia. As such, there was no requirement for a competitive bidding process, wrote Mishra. (The Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development was renamed Global Affairs Canada by Canada’s new Liberal government after the federal election last October.)

Documents released under the Access to Information Act describe the project’s purpose as helping Ukraine counter “foreign and criminal cyberactions,” suggesting some of the attacks originate in Russia—which in 2014 invaded and then annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea, and since then has also covertly invaded and backed an insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

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