Canada’s cybersecurity watchdog expects foreign meddling in 2019 elections

The Canadian Society for Cybersecurity is warning Canadian voters to expect some form of foreign meddling in the upcoming 2019 federal elections, which is set to take place on October 21st.

At the Make IT Secure Cybersecurity in Manufacturing Conference in Brampton last week, Adams Hatfield, the center’s director of partnerships, warned Canadians that they should expect foreign nations to interfere in Canada’s democratic process, according to a Brampton Guardian report.


“In 2018, about half of the advanced democratic nations in the world that had federal elections, about half of them saw foreign interference in their elections. That’s the simple math,” he said, adding that represented a threefold increase since 2015 — a rising trend the center believes will continue throughout 2019.

“We believe you see will interference in our election,” he added.

According to Hatfield, there are types of election interference – against political parties, against voters, and direct interference with electoral systems.

Since Canada still relies on paper ballots, the center’s biggest concerns surround interference at the party and voter levels.

“Electoral systems in Canada, we’re still kind of retro, old-school in terms of filling out a paper ballot. That’s actually a strength,” Hatfield said, adding that any attempts to change vote counts is extremely unlikely due to “robust” procedures and protections already set in place.

However, according to the center, there are other less direct and way for foreign actors to affect the outcome of an election.

Foreign interference

Earlier this year, the federal government released a study, dubbed “2019 Update: Cyber Threats to Canada’s Democratic process”, which warned voters that it was “very likely” that foreign interference in Canada’s next election would resemble activity undertaken against other countries in recent years.

“Foreign adversaries have attempted to sway the ideas and decisions of voters by focusing on polarizing social and political issues, promoting the popularity of one party over another, or trying to shape the public statements and policy choices of a candidate,” the center wrote on its website.

“However, at this time, it is improbable that this foreign cyber interference will be of the scale of Russian activity against the 2016 United States presidential election,” the report added.