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What is the Canadian Communication Security Establishment?

Padlock and Canadian flag, representing cybersecurity Canada

What is the CSE?

The CSE is one of Canada’s key security and intelligence organizations, specializing in cryptology. CSE stands for Communications Security Establishment or Centre de la sécurité des télécommunications. As a cybersecurity leader in Canada, it has three main duties:

  1. Collecting foreign signals intelligence, aka intercepting communications to gather intelligence
  2. Protecting information and computer networks
  3. Assisting other federal agencies and organizations when they require technical assistance

While these functions were carried out during World War II, the CSE was formally established as the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) in 1946. However, both the organization and the information it gathered were secret until 1974. The CSE maintains its previous war-time function of intercepting and decrypting data, but has since also transitioned into a cybersecurity authority in Canada.

What Does the CSE Do?

The CSE’s mandate, which was passed in 2019, contains five main aspects intended to uphold and strengthen cybersecurity throughout Canada:

  1. Collect and interpret data to offer advice, guidance, and services around cybersecurity in Canada
  2. Acquire and provide foreign intelligence information to support intelligence priorities for the Government of Canada
  3. Protect the data and infrastructure important to the Government of Canada
  4. Actively respond to and disrupt interference by foreign entities
  5. Support federal law and security agencies, as well as departments via technical and operational assistance

To carry each of these out, the CSE supports cybersecurity efforts throughout Canadian government entities, as well as for Canadian citizens, by working with businesses, educational organizations, and administrations throughout Canada’s provinces, territories, and municipalities.

Related Reading: Think like a Hacker and Secure Your Data

CSE and FIPS 140-2

The CSE developed the Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS 140-2) alongside the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

FIPS 140-2 formalizes security requirements for cryptographic modules, meaning it lays out how secure the cybersecurity and cryptography solutions used by the government must be. Government entities and their trading partners in both the U.S. and Canada can only use solutions that adhere to these cybersecurity requirements.

Related Reading: What is NIST?

Software solutions that meet FIPS validation can:

  • Secure data in storage (at rest) via encryption and sanitization
  • Limit access to data through robust role-based user access
  • Safely transmit data through approved protocols, such as FTPS, HTTPS, or SFTP

How Does the CSE Impact Cybersecurity in Canada?

Through its mandates, activities, and laws, the CSE helps establish guidelines that government entities and private businesses should follow, as well as take defensive actions towards protecting sensitive data within Canada.

When organizations – both within and outside of the government – use security tools, like GoAnywhere MFT, that follow the CSE’s cybersecurity requirements, they’re taking measures to ensure the data they have collected, processed, or stored is both secure in the case of a data breach, as well as that their infrastructures are secured against one.

How Can You Improve Your Cybersecurity and Risk Management?

Using secure and auditable tools to transfer and process data can significantly reduce your risk of both data breaches and improper handling of personal data. Know that your file transfers are encrypted, and that only appropriate users have access to certain folders and files. Learn more about how to secure your data against a breach with the guide Defending Against Data Breach.

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