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Canadian spy agency says Chinese hacked into NRC computers, network shut down

OTTAWA — Chinese hackers have infiltrated the computer systems at the National Research Council, forcing it to shut down its IT network for an extended period, the federal government revealed Tuesday.

The Treasury Board Secretariat said there is no evidence that other government computer systems or data have been compromised.

But the NRC’s computers have been isolated from the rest of the government’s systems as a precaution.

And the council said it could be some time before a new, more secure system is up and running.

“NRC is continuing to work closely with its IT experts and security partners to create a new secure IT infrastructure,” the council said in a statement.

“This could take approximately one year however; every step is being taken to minimize disruption.”

In a separate statement, the government said one of Canada’s spy agencies, the Communications Security Establishment, detected and confirmed the cyber attack.

The intrusion came from “a highly sophisticated Chinese state-sponsored actor,” said the Treasury Board.

“We have no evidence that data compromises have occurred on the broader Government of Canada network,” the statement said.

Still, the NRC said it has notified the Privacy Commissioner and its clients and stakeholders about the breach.

The agency said it would not release further information, citing security and confidentiality reasons.

However, it planned to update Canadians on the situation by Thursday.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird raised concerns over the breach with Chinese government officials in Beijing Tuesday, according to a spokesman for the minister.

“The minister took the opportunity to discuss the situation with his counterpart, and they had a full and frank exchange of views on the matter,” said Adam Hodge.

“The government takes this issue very seriously and we are addressing it at the highest levels in both Beijing and Ottawa.”

Baird is currently on a three-country tour of Asia to promote economic ties among Canada, China, Mongolia and Japan.

The National Research Council touts itself as “the Government of Canada’s premier organization for research and development,” which partners its scientists, engineers and business experts with private industry to bring new technologies to market.

 
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