Feds like risky data cloud as alternative to their creaky computer systems

The federal government is willing to store data in the internet cloud as an alternative to its own aging computers

The federal government is willing to accept the privacy and security risks of storing data in the internet cloud as an alternative to its own aging computers that are “at risk of breaking down,” says an internal policy paper.

The federal paper on “data sovereignty,” obtained through the Access to Information Act, fleshes out the government’s plan to embrace the cloud as a solution to its file management woes.

Privately run cloud companies provide customers, such as federal departments, with virtual computer services — from email systems to vast storage capacity — using software, servers and other hardware hosted on the company’s premises.

The government sees the cloud as a way to meet the needs of Canadians in an era of increasing demand for online services.

However, the paper says, ”a number of concerns” related to data control, protection and privacy have been raised within the government, including:

  • — Storage of sensitive information — designated “Protected B” or higher — outside the country, creating a risk that access might be restricted or denied due to a contractual dispute with a company or a disagreement with the host government;
  • — Handoff of certain security responsibilities to the cloud service provider;
  • — The possibility that courts could compel foreign-owned cloud service providers to turn over Canadian data to their governments.

Many countries, including Canada, have laws allowing them to subpoena or obtain a warrant for information from private organizations to support legal investigations, the paper notes.

The U.S. Patriot Act, passed following the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, gave the Federal Bureau of Investigation broader access to records held by firms in the United States, including data on Canadians.

In addition, there are long-standing information-sharing agreements and a legal assistance process between security and law-enforcement agencies in both countries — “the most likely vehicles for obtaining access to information held in Canada,” the policy paper says.

Canada’s government has legal obligations to protect personal data and highly sensitive information related to national security, cabinet discussions, military affairs and legal matters.

Related: Liberal elections bill aimed at tighter rules on spending, fake news, privacy

As a result, Treasury Board has drafted a policy declaring all Protected B, Protected C and classified electronic federal data must be stored in a government-approved computing facility located in Canada or within the premises of a department abroad, such as a diplomatic mission, the paper says.

Canada also plans to limit the kinds of files that can be stored in the cloud and to use encryption to shield sensitive data from prying eyes.

There are risks associated with both moving to the “alternative service delivery model” of the cloud and sticking with the government’s aging computer systems, says Alex Benay, the federal chief information officer, in an October memo to the Treasury Board secretary accompanying the paper.

“Ultimately it becomes a risk trade-off discussion, exchanging existing risks for data sovereignty risks (that can be mitigated to some extent).”

Among the current difficulties is the fact the government’s “aging and mission-critical (information technology) infrastructure are at risk of breaking down and must be renewed,” the paper says. Transforming these systems is “proceeding slower than anticipated,” in part due to the challenges and complexities of consolidating 43 departments.

In the same vein, departments have experienced problems with fixing weaknesses promptly, leaving the government “exposed to cyberthreats,” the paper says. In contrast, cloud service providers have significant budgets to “maintain, patch and secure” their systems.

Finally, the government wants to follow the global trend of providing better digital services for citizens, but demand for computing capabilities and storage space “exceeds the supply available,” the paper acknowledges.

“Cloud first” policies have already been adopted by Australia, Britain, New Zealand and the United States, Canada’s Five Eyes allies.

The U.S. has served notice it wants an end to measures that restrict cross-border data flows, or require the use or installation of local computing facilities. It is among the American goals for ongoing NAFTA renegotiation, posing a possible headache for Canada’s cloud-computing plans.

Related: G7 warned of Russian threats to western democracy

Related: Federal government needs help tackling cyberthreats, internal report warns

Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Tarp structure on Warden Street to be removed

Property owner has 30 days to comply with the city’s request

SD28 reveals new school bus schedule; hits back at City Council

District says Board of Education did not make formal request to alter BC Transit schedule

BC SPCA launches Wildlife-in-Focus Photography Contest

Enter the 10th annual photography contest by September

Arraignment date set for local theft suspect

Earl Edward Roper has been in and out of court for Blackwater Road bust charges since January

One-woman show coming to Wells’ Sunset Theatre

The show will be performed on July 19 and Aug. 23, 2018

Trudeau asks transport minister to tackle Greyhound’s western pullout

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s asked Transport Minister Marc Garneau to find solutions in Greyhound Canada’s absence.

Hub for mental health and addictions treatment opens at B.C. hospital

St. Paul’s Hospital HUB is an acute medical unit that includes 10 patient beds

Restaurant Brands International to review policy over poaching employees

One of Canada’s largest fast-food company to review ‘no-poach’ franchise agreements

Calgary family’s vacation ends in tragedy on Texas highway

Three people died and four others were injured in the crash

Union construction cost competitive, B.C. Building Trades say

Non-union firms can bid on infrastructure, but employees have to join international unions

Trudeau to shuffle cabinet ahead of Liberals’ team for 2019

Trudeau could lighten the work loads of cabinet ministers who currently oversee more than one portfolio

Car calls 911 on possible impaired B.C. driver

A luxury car automatically calls Princeton police to scene of crash involving alcohol

BC Games marks 40 years in 2018

Cowichan Games a milestone for BC Games Society

VIDEO: Life’s a beach at this B.C. sand sculpting contest

More than $50,000 was up for grabs at the annual contest held in Parksville

Most Read