Foreign actors will seek to interfere in next Canada election - spy agency

People pose in front of a display showing the word 'cyber' in binary code, in this picture illustration taken in Zenica December 27, 2014. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

OTTAWA, July 16 (Reuters) - Foreign state-sponsored actors will try to interfere in the next Canadian federal election but not on the scale of the campaign mounted against the United States, Canada's electronic signals spy agency said on Friday.

The Communications Security Establishment (CSE) also said changes made around the world to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as incorporating new technology in the voting process, had increased the threat of foreign mischief.

State-sponsored actors with links to Russia, China, and Iran have conducted most of the observed cyber threat activity against democratic processes worldwide, a CSE report said.

"We judge it very likely that Canadian voters will encounter some form of foreign cyber interference...ahead of, and during, the next federal election. It is unlikely to be at the scale seen in the United States," it said.

A U.S. intelligence report in January 2017 said Russian President Vladimir Putin directed an influence campaign including cyber attacks to support Donald Trump, who won the 2016 presidential election. Moscow denies the allegations.

The CSE did not identify particular nations it thought might try to influence Canadian voters.

Officials close to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau say he is virtually certain to call an election later this year. During the last federal vote, in 2019, no significant cyber threats were uncovered.

Canada is a lower-priority target compared to other nations, the CSE report concluded. The chances of an adversary actually overturning the results of a Canadian election are almost non-existent, given that voters use paper ballots.

Reporting by David Ljunggren Editing by Mark Heinrich

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