Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cyber spying is the new face of espionage

'When we do trace [cyber espionage] back to China, the Chinese put the blame on a rogue group of hackers — they're very careful to make sure it never gets traced back to intelligence or defence sources.'
—Christian Leuprecht, Royal Military College of Canada

When many people think of espionage, the image that readily comes to mind is of the furtive spy, clad in black, taking photographs of secret dossiers with a camera disguised as a cigarette lighter. It's an image that seems quaint and dated, especially since the end of the Cold War. But the recent controversy surrounding Conservative MP Bob Dechert's flirtatious email exchanges with a Chinese journalist remind Canadians that the threat of international espionage did not vanish with the fall of the Iron Curtain.

If anything, the threat to Canadian secrets has strengthened in recent years and is something the federal government is fighting on a daily basis.

Christian Leuprecht, an associate professor of political science at the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, says the Dechert case represents a textbook example of international espionage.

"It is an active, long-standing intelligence tradition to use journalists, because it's easy to place them on temporary assignment somewhere for a period of time," he said. Journalists ask questions, meet people, learn things. "There seems to be something more to the story than meets the eye." But although they are still used, the need for such field operatives is declining in the online age.


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