Canadian Volunteers to Form Cyber Civil Defense Brigade

IT professionals in Canada are joining forces to protect their country's vital services and critical infrastructure from cyber-threats. 

The mission of the all-volunteer cyber-defense team will be to defend Canada's health-care providers, municipalities, and critical infrastructure from cyber-attacks launched amid the COVID-19 health crisis.

A volunteer recruitment effort led by the SecDev Group is calling on IT pros to lend a hand by providing preventative measures to thwart attackers. The group is also asking for assistance from volunteers who can offer remedial services that help organizations recover from cyber-attacks. 

Rafal Rohozinski, principal and CEO of the SecDev Group, said that not only are cyber-criminals preying on vital organizations made vulnerable by the current coronavirus crisis, but they are also weaponizing public fear over COVID-19. 

"Hackers are targeting hospitals and health care providers, preying on their distraction, fear and anxiety and their hope for a cure," said Rohozinski.

"Posing as public health officials from the World Health Organization, [the] Centers for Disease Control and UNICEF, cyber criminals are flooding hospitals, medical laboratories, vaccine testing facilities, municipalities and critical service providers with phishing emails, forcing some to shut down."  

So far, twelve companies and associations have volunteered their services. Construction has begun on a secure online exchange service that can match volunteering tech professionals with agencies and institutions in need of cybersecurity help.

Volunteers will offer services such as cybersecurity training and advice to organizations free of charge. 

Rohozinski described the group's formation as "both a patriotic and public service reflex" designed to support a deeply interconnected society. 

"If the internet goes down, and in particular if critical institutions that we count on—like hospitals, like cities, like utilities—start to be ransomed or start to go down because of cyber malfeasance, we're all in a lot of trouble," said Rohozinski.

No cyber-attacks on Canadian hospitals or institutions have been reported since the COVID-19 health crisis began, but hospitals in Paris and the Czech Republic and a medical research company in Britain that is working on a COVID-19 vaccine have been targeted. 

Rohozinski said the launch of the exchange website is expected to take place in the next few days.

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