Canada Revenue Agency | “Risks” associated with employees using cell phones

Could Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) employees who use cell phones to respond to requests for information from the public “expose risks” to the citizen? The federal body warns that yes. If the situation is not alarming, it still requires certain changes in habits, according to an expert.

Posted at 05.00

Henri Ouellette-Vezina

Henri Ouellette-Vezina
The press

At the end of the line, when communicating with CRA customer service, an automated voice now warns Canadians about certain risks to consider. “Some of our officers use mobile phones to answer inquiries, which can pose risks. By staying on the line, you agree to continue the call”, indicates the automatic voice at the end of the line before putting the user in touch with a representative, was able to see The press.

It is then explained that the user “can also choose to explore other ways” to contact the Danish Tax Agency, such as the My Account service, online.

“Because of the limitations of current cell phone technology, security is never guaranteed. Calling the CRA using a cell phone is no less secure than calling someone else who uses the same technology,” said CRA spokeswoman Hannah Wardell. via e-mail.

Since August last year, the Finance Council has stated in a government document that “the duty to use encryption to protect sensitive information […] does not apply in the case of transmissions outside the Government of Canada by voice and sound, “said Wardel.

This is because “the Government of Canada has no control over external communications networks and personal devices used by the public.” The policy for the use of mobile phones to communicate with the public has therefore been “changed to reflect this new directive”, the spokesman continues, pointing out that the automatic message is only intended to give everyone the opportunity to “make an informed decision”. , before proceeding with the appeal ”.

A “real” danger, but one that is marked

At UQAM, the coordinator of the Laboratory for Socio-Digital Media Research, Jonathan Bonneau, reminds us that the danger when a federal official uses a cell phone is “real,” but that it can very well be monitored for “minimal” .

The ultimate danger is that we install scanners, such as those used in police cars, under a car to intercept discussions on the sidewalk or at the entrance to houses.

Jonathan Bonneau, coordinator of the Social Media Research Laboratory

“Having said that, it is a technology that is not as advanced and democratized as what we see for, for example, car theft. On the other hand, of course, one never knows how it may develop. It is therefore necessary to advocate for the monitoring of the tools used by officials, Mr Bonneau adds.

According to him, the biggest risk for a representative of the CRA’s use of a mobile phone is “hacking of IP addresses”. “In relation to satellite, where you really have to target someone, you can just place a network and see what passes over the address. It is therefore a bit random hacking, which can possibly give a lot of data, ”notes the specialist.

Ultimately, the warning issued by the Revenue Agency is likely to call for “getting into new prevention habits,” Jonathan Bonneau concludes. “For example, when you are asked for your social security number, it is to ask if the person you are talking to has a landline phone or at least is protected in some way. And if not, you can ask to speak to someone else, ”he states. However, this step is not necessary for basic information such as your name or last name.

In recent years, the federal agency has been a victim of cyberattacks, as have several other departments, government units, and large organizations. Recently, last December, the Federal Agency had also stated that it had suspended its online services after becoming aware of the existence of a security threat. In Quebec, the Mon dossier was temporarily unavailable.

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