Canada’s Public Safety Minister Targeted by Hacktivists

February 21, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
Epoch Times Photo
Canada's Public Safety Minister Vic Toews. (MandelNgan/AFP/Getty Images)

OTTAWA—Canada’s public safety minister is being attacked by hacktivists with Anonymous and an unnamed Twitter user for a proposed e-security bill that would increase police powers for online surveillance and force Internet service providers (ISPs) to disclose personal information without a warrant.

The intimidation campaign against Minister Vic Toews has included two threatening videos posted under the Anonymous moniker and a message from twitter Vikileaks30, accusing him of adultery with detailed information Toews said came from his divorce proceedings.

“We warned you not to force your abhorrent spying legislation onto the Canadian people. You did not heed our warnings, now you will be exposed for the hypocrite that you are,” warns one of the videos posted by Anonymous.

The computerized voice in the video coming from a headless suited man, the symbol of Anonymous, stands before a red United Nations-style symbol with a Canadian flag.

The voice condemns Toews for describing Canada’s recently abolished gun registry as an invasion of privacy, while asking ISPs to record user information.

Another video warns Toews that he will end up jobless and despised if he continues pushing forward the legislation.

The Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act would give police powers to compel ISPs to disclose some Web-user information, including names, addresses, phone numbers, and IP addresses without a warrant. That information can be shared now without a warrant, but only if the ISP is willing. The act would also require ISPs to store detailed logs of user activity for up to 90 days, such as emails and Web-surfing activity, accessible by police with a warrant.

A grandiose monologue in one of the Anonymous videos describes Toews as a tyrant and threatens to expose any skeletons in his closet.

The Vikileaks30 twitter account created in response to the bill disclosed details of Toews’s previous marriage and divorce, but it closed down after concerted efforts tried to uncover the person behind the account.

The Ottawa Citizen traced the Twitter account to an IP address inside the House of Commons—the same IP address associated with edits made in Wikipedia that were clearly pro-New Democratic Party, Canada’s left-leaning opposition.

The Citizen’s revelations led the government to blame opposition parties for being behind the attack.

Toews sent a letter to Andrew Scheer, speaker of the House of Commons, to “expeditiously undertake and investigation” into who was sending the tweets.

Toews also wrote to his constituents blaming the tweets on “political opponents” adding that the leaks included criminal acts that had been referred to police.

“I will be fully accountable for any responsibility that I bear for the breakdown of my previous marriage but that accountability is not something I owe to the public generally or to my political opponents in particular.”

Sgt. Greg Cox at RCMP National Headquarters in Ottawa said the RCMP, Canada’s federal police, does not normally give out details of who or what it is investigating.

“All we are saying at this point is that we are in receipt of a referral on the matter,” said Cox.

Last week, when the bill was introduced, NDP leader, Nycole Turmel lambasted it, calling it nonsense, illogical, and hypocritical.

The bill is now being fast tracked for review by a parliamentary committee, a move the government says shows its willingness to consider amendments.

“Our objective here is to provide the necessary tools for police to be able to do what they used to do with old technology, with new technology, while at the same time ensuring that individuals’ privacy rights are protected,” said Peter Van Loan, a senior government member, last week.

On his blog, Michael Geist, Canada Research chair in Internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa, said the bill has many problems, but none impossible to fix.

“Mandatory disclosure isn’t the only issue with the bill—the oversight of surveillance capabilities remains underdeveloped, the costs associated with surveillance equipment is a giant question mark, and the fears of surveillance misuse based on the experience in other jurisdictions continues to cause concern,” writes Geist.