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Government funded espionage expanding in wake of NSA controversy

In Japan, Brazil, the U.S. and Canada cybersecurity government initiatives are ramping up.
Rather than being dialed back by revelations about the NSA, espionage is a true growth industry. Governments from Japan to Canada have made recent moves aimed at expanding their cyberwarfare efforts.

The government of Japan is actively cultivating the next generation of white hat hackers to address a shortfall in staff they feel will be needed to combat cyberattacks against critical infrastructure, such as transportation, energy and finance.

In August, the Information-Technology Promotion Agency (IPA) staged a hackathon in Chiba for 41 16-to-22-year-olds (selected from 250 applicants). Billed as a five-day “security camp”, the hackathon is part of Japan’s bid to catch up to South Korea, which has been more aggressive in the recruitment of young people into its cybersecurity government initiatives.

A government panel in Japan tasked with studying the problem came to the conclusion that in addition to hiring 80,000 more information security engineers than it currently has, approximately 160,000 of the existing 265,000 security specialists urgently need a skills upgrade to better deal with the increasing sophistication of cyberattacks.

“Existing programs can by no means cover the shortage,” said Hidehiko Tanaka, president of private graduate school, the Institute of Information Security. “The government should spearhead efforts to nurture talented engineers and increase the jobs available for them.”

Meanwhile, the government of Canada is building a new $867 million, 775,000 square foot headquarters for the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), moving it right next door to CSIS. The CSEC, which employs about 2,000 people, often plays second fiddle to CSIS, but its operations are no less crucial to Canada’s foreign intelligence operations.

The CSEC specializes in cryptology, intercepting and interpreting metadata on foreign communications, and interpreting and then sharing its information with CSIS and also with the other four members of the “Five Eyes” group of countries with allied espionage agencies: Australia, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S.

The building, set to open in August 2014, was a public-private partnership with international infrastructure firm Plenary Group, which has been contracted to design, build, maintain and finance the project. The company says on its website, “This project contains many complexities – significant security requirements, presence of IT services, restrictions on ownership and acceptable debtholders – that could have presented obstacles to raising the required $1 billion in debt financing.

Plenary was able to devise a commercial and financial structure to overcome these challenges and achieved an A-level credit rating from S&P and DBRS, a precedence setting achievement in the Canadian PPP market.” Those nervous about privacy and government overreach might take a little comfort in the fact that CSEC’s new headquarters will be built to the highest environmental standard.

The CSEC has been singled out by the government of Brazil, home of American journalist Glenn Greenwald, with fresh insights that have been presented in the latest data dump from Edward Snowden, representing the first time Canada has been implicated in his espionage leaks.

Brazil’s Globo TV aired a report on Sunday night reporting that Snowden’s documents show the CSEC spied on Brazil’s Mines and Energy Ministry, using software called Olympia. This evidence blurs the lines between government and corporate espionage in the sense that Brazil’s mining industry is largely state controlled, and yet Canada’s interests in the country are mainly private-public partnership.

Between construction on a new headquarters for Canada’s other spy agency and the Japanese government courting high school students to expand its cyberwarfare efforts, one can conclude that espionage, rather than being dialed back by revelations about the NSA, is a growth industry.

Espionage, as one might expect, has transformed many times since the introduction of The Espionage Act in 1917. Today, most prosecutions relate not to traditional espionage but to withholding information or leaking it to the media, Edward Snowden style.

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