OTTAWA ó The Tories pointed the finger at the Chinese government Tuesday after repeated cyberattacks against the government's research and development arm forced it to shut down computer systems last weekend.
The Treasury Board says no sensitive information was stolen, but this is the first time the government has laid blame for an attack squarely at the feet of the Chinese government.
"The government detected and confirmed a cyber intrusion on the IT infrastructure of the National Research Council by a highly sophisticated Chinese state-sponsored actor," the Treasury Board said in a statement. "We have no evidence that data compromises have occurred on the broader government network."
Security expert and former CSIS manager Michel Juneau-Katsuya said he wasn't surprised by this latest report of an attack from the Chinese government ó particularly given the nature of what the NRC does.
"The NRC is a very strategic area for the government," he told QMI Agency.
The NRC's "fundamental research" in areas such as agriculture, telecommunications, space, travel, computer technology and food would be of significant benefit to the Chinese, he said.
"They want to know what is being researched, how far we are, eventually maybe to steal our intellectual property," he said.
A perfunctory statement from the foreign affairs department described Canada's relationship with China as "mature," saying the two countries enjoy "frank dialogue" on a "variety of levels."
"We continue to discuss issues surrounding cybersecurity," the statement says. "The government takes this issue very seriously and we are addressing it at the highest levels in both Beijing and Ottawa."
But allegations of cyberattacks and other forms of Chinese espionage are nothing new. Spying concerns made headlines in 2012 when Chinese company Huawei Technologies wanted to invest further in Canada.
Juneau-Katsuya said China isn't the only country known to pour serious resources into cyber and corporate espionage, but it is far and away the most serious perpetrator.
"Not only are they doing a lot, but they've invested hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of resources ó people who do this full time," he said
The Chinese Embassy rejected the allegations Tuesday.
"We do not accept the groundless allegation of Chinese government's involvement in any cyber intrusion or attack," Counsellor Yang Yundong said in a statement. "The Chinese government is a major victim of cyberattacks."
"It is neither professional nor responsible to make groundless speculations," the statement continues. "It is the common challenge faced by the international community to deal with cyberattacks and safeguard cybersecurity."
Juneau-Katsuya agreed cybersecurity is an international concern, but said Canada isn't prepared to protect itself against the threat.
"Our government is not showing the leadership needed to protect us," he said.