Evolution of CSE
CSE must contend with the revolutionary pace of technological change. The foundation of its activities is technology, which affects CSE, like its partners, in several ways:
The pressures for change
- The channels through which foreign communications travel are multiplying. The new wireless, fibre optic and Internet communications technologies continue to advance, requiring CSE's computer scientists and engineers to expand and upgrade their knowledge base constantly.
- The targets of foreign intelligence collection activities, including terrorist groups, now have easy access to the sophisticated products of a multi-trillion dollar telecommunications industry, including digital encryption technology, available as freeware on the World Wide Web, making it difficult if not impossible to decipher their communications.
- Increasingly, vast amounts of information are moving through new channels of communication, making it highly labour-intensive for CSE to identify useful information.
- Canadian government departments and agencies are also using new modes of communication that interconnect with computer systems that contain sensitive information or control critical infrastructure. They look to CSE's ITS experts for advice to protect their communications networks and computer systems.
- The number of attacks on government networks and systems is growing. A September 2000 study on threats to federal Internet sites estimated that a typical site is subject to 10 or more threat incidents each week. Moreover, the frequency of foreign attacks on US systems that originate or pass through Canada is becoming an issue.
- The government's new Office of Critical Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Preparedness, announced in February 2001 and charged with developing and implementing a comprehensive approach to protecting Canada's critical infrastructure, will look to CSE for technical support.
CSE's strategic plan
During the year under review, CSE embarked upon an important strategic exercise to identify alternative approaches to delivering its mandate.
As a starting point, CSE defined its vision: "to be the agency that masters the global information network to enhance Canada's safety and prosperity". In so doing, CSE has effectively returned to its roots with the recognition that its core strength is its ability to understand and protect communications and communications systems. CSE's ability to exploit these systems to provide foreign intelligence flows from this core strength.
In support of its vision, CSE aims to become a centre of excellence that develops and applies its technical expertise and understanding of global communications networks and helps Canada meet its critical information needs.
CSE has adopted three strategic goals for the next 10 years:
- to be the acknowledged governmental centre of excellence in understanding and addressing the capacities of the global network
- to protect and enable the Canadian information infrastructure
- to modernize CSE services, products and delivery.
As a first step, CSE has strengthened the linkage between its SIGINT and ITS programs. Although their activities are related, they have traditionally operated at arm's length from each other. To achieve its strategic goals, CSE intends to benefit from the synergies created by drawing the two programs closer. By exploring the vulnerabilities of communications and information systems together, SIGINT and ITS experts now pool their knowledge to identify threats to Canadian systems as well as opportunities for foreign intelligence collection.
In June 2000, the Chief of CSE briefed me on this topic. Subsequently, my office has discussed the strategy in detail with CSE's senior management. I do not believe this approach will change how I review CSE's activities in any fundamental way, since my focus will remain on their lawfulness. In the meantime, I have expressed my support of this undertaking.
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