OTTAWA (Reuters) - Organized cybercrime is set to pose a threat to Canada's national security and economic prosperity over the next two years, the national signal intelligence agency said on Monday.
The Communications Security Establishment (CSE) in a report identified Russia and Iran as cybercrime safe havens where criminals can operate against Western targets.
Ransomware attacks on critical infrastructure such as hospitals and pipelines can be particularly profitable, the report said. Cyber criminals continue to show resilience and an ability to innovate their business model, it said.
"Organized cybercrime will very likely pose a threat to Canada's national security and economic prosperity over the next two years," said CSE, which is the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. National Security Agency.
"Ransomware is almost certainly the most disruptive form of cybercrime facing Canada because it is pervasive and can have a serious impact on an organization's ability to function," it said.
Official data show that in 2022, there were 70,878 reports of cyber fraud in Canada with over C$530 million ($390 million)stolen.
But Chris Lynam, director general of Canada's National Cybercrime Coordination Centre, said very few crimes were reported and the real amount stolen last year could easily be C$5 billion or more.
"Every sector is being targeted along with all types of businesses as well ... folks really have to make sure that they're taking this seriously," he told a briefing.
Russian intelligence services and law enforcement almost certainly maintain relationships with cyber criminals and allow them to operate with near impunity as long as they focus on targets outside the former Soviet Union, CSE said.
Moscow has consistently denied that it carries out or supports hacking operations.
Tehran likely tolerates cybercrime activities by Iran-based cyber criminals that align with the state's strategic and ideological interests, it added.
($1 = 1.3598 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Tomasz Janowski and Grant McCool)