The National Research Council (NRC) in Ottawa shut down its entire computer network on Monday, the result of a prolonged attack from what it says are hackers in China -- and it could take the agency up to a year to secure its computers.
According to CTV News, the cyberattack had been going on for a month before NRC decided to shut down its computers.
The NRC is an agency within Industry Canada. Its mandate is to support research and development in the private sector, so its computers often hold information on leading-edge technological advances, CBC News reports.
“We understand that this incident will affect ongoing business operations and every step is being taken to minimize its impact on our clients and stakeholders,” the NRC said in a statement on its website Tuesday.
The NRC now shares an integrated computer network with 42 other government departments, raising concerns the cyberattacks may not have been limited to the one department. But the Treasury Board says the NRC's computers have been isolated from the rest of the government's systems as a precaution.
In a statement, the government says one of Canada's spy agencies, the Communications Security Establishment, detected and confirmed the cyber attack.
It says the intrusion came from "a highly sophisticated Chinese state-sponsored actor."
NRC is now working shore up its cyber-security measures, but says the work could take up to a year. “Every step is being taken to minimize its impact on our clients and stakeholders,” the council said.
Cyberattacks, particularly those originating in China, have become a major source of concern for cyber-security experts and policy makers.
Earlier this month, news reports revealed that Chinese hackers had infiltrated the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to access the personnel files of U.S. federal employees who had applies for top-security clearances.
But hacks aren’t limited to government agencies. Reports emerged three years ago that Chinese hackers had broken into Gmail. Some analysts say prolonged attacks by Chinese hackers contributed to the collapse of Canadian tech giant Nortel.
-- With files from The Canadian Press