01/16/2014 04:14 EST | Updated 03/18/2014 05:59 EDT

Tory Slack On Cybercrime Hurting Economy, RCMP Boss Says


OTTAWA - The RCMP commissioner has quietly warned Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney the government must do more to fight cybercrime — an expanding threat the top Mountie says is undermining the economy and putting Canadians at risk.

In a letter to the minister, commissioner Bob Paulson notes one pillar of the government's cybersecurity plan focuses on both providing the public with information to protect themselves online and strengthening the ability of law-enforcement agencies to fight cybercrime.

"It is my view that the government needs to focus more on this pillar of the strategy," Paulson says.

"This growing threat significantly impacts the economic prosperity of our country, as well as individual Canadians."

The letter, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, was prepared for Blaney as part of an extensive briefing package sent to the new minister, who was appointed in July.

Accompanying briefing notes say while efforts to secure the online world have progressed under the federal strategy announced in 2010, "a gap remains" concerning law enforcement's ability to effectively tackle cybercrime.

The offences — which take on "a new scope and gravity" in cyberspace — include child exploitation, cyberbullying, Internet-based mass marketing fraud, identity theft, intellectual property infringement, money laundering and illegal goods trafficking.

However, "limited funding" — three per cent of the federal cybersecurity budget — had been earmarked to address cybercrime, the RCMP notes say.

"There is a significant disparity between the criminal use of the Internet and information technologies and the RCMP's ability to keep pace through effective investigations, targeted enforcement and other policing measures."

One complication is the "rising complexity and volume of digital evidence" generated by such investigations, taxing Mountie resources.

Last year an internal audit of the RCMP's technological crime program found a backlog of requests to analyze computing devices — potentially vital pieces of evidence — at all five program units the reviewers visited.

There is also an increase in the use of technology by organized crime networks in Canada, and a need for more broad-based national and international police co-operation to combat cybercrime through joint operations, the newly released notes say.

Among the emerging RCMP concerns is criminal exploitation of the growing popularity of mobile smartphones, which sometimes place speed and convenience ahead of protective firewalls, anti-virus software and encryption.

The RCMP's criminal intelligence program has warned that new criminal opportunities will emerge as more people use the handy devices to make online payments.

The newly released notes say the RCMP identified elements that would better help it address cybercrime during a Public Safety-led "gap analysis" last March. It recommended:

— Bringing new technical skills to high-priority investigations that affect national security and economic integrity, including threats from organized criminal networks;

— Working with Internet service providers to eliminate cybercrime websites and email accounts linked to widespread online offences;

— Expanding technical facilities to support cybercrime investigations and improving training.

The RCMP used the analysis as a springboard to begin working on a full-fledged cybercrime strategy for presentation to the government.

The Public Safety Department declined to answer questions Thursday, referring them to the Mounties.

In an email late Thursday, an RCMP spokesperson described the strategy as "under development" and said the force "is currently consulting with partners and Public Safety Canada."

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