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Evidence of meeting #28 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was security.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Audrey O'Brien  Clerk of the House of Commons
Louis Bard  Chief Information Officer, House of Commons
Kevin Vickers  Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Commons

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Yes, you bet.

Here is a technical question, going back to Anonymous and YouTube. YouTube can technically identify who put those videos on the site. Is that a true statement or not?

11:50 a.m.

Chief Information Officer, House of Commons

Louis Bard

I think this is the difficulty, because those who act as “Anonymous” are very creative. You can receive something from China that was issued here in Ottawa. They specialize in scanning the environment and identifying weaknesses and vulnerabilities of technologies; that's what they do. Very often they get their dirty work done by others. They will give the open door, the possibility to post something to activate a script.

This is a very complex situation. We've seen cases in the States in which they worked for more than two years and finally identified five of them. But it took two years to find them, and this group is in constant mutation. Every day, it's a difficult task. It's beyond the boundaries of Canada; it's worldwide.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Yes, and not to get into methodologies, would organizations like CSEC have the capacity to follow those chains back, whether it comes through China or wherever? Do we have the technical capacity to do that?

11:50 a.m.

Chief Information Officer, House of Commons

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

I'm sorry, but your time is complete.

Mr. Comartin.

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, witnesses, for being here.

I want to pursue the issue of identifying the culprit in terms of what our staff.... This may be for Mr. Vickers, or perhaps Mr. Bard, but I think it's more likely for Mr. Vickers. Clearly there has been some success in the last couple of years, both in England and in the United States, one as recently as about a week ago in the United States, where Anonymous or other individuals—I don't think you can call them a group—hiding behind that have been identified and are being prosecuted. I don't know if there are going to be convictions, but I have here a series of incidents where there have been charges laid in the last year or two years.

Do we have—does the House have—a relationship with our police forces? In a situation like we have here with the member for Provencher, where we would be having contact, is there a protocol whereby we would be having contact to make sure this incident was being investigated by our police forces? Also, given the most recent one that the FBI identified in the United States, were they checking to see if our police forces have been in touch with them in order to see if there are any resources they can provide us to try to identify the culprit and have the person charged?

11:50 a.m.

Clerk of the House of Commons

Audrey O'Brien

Mr. Chair, I'll turn it over to the sergeant, who obviously knows more about the consultations among police forces. I think we have a very good working relationship with the authorities and we use that. At the same time, I think that the House as an institution, we as the House administration, do not seek investigation on a particular case.

Kevin can perhaps speak to how police would react and what would start them on an investigation.

11:55 a.m.

Kevin Vickers Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Commons

Generally, Mr. Comartin, it's our practice to be in contact with our security partners on a daily basis. Obviously, as Sergeant-at-Arms I'm responsible for all your security, so if anything comes to our attention, regardless of what it is, we always take the appropriate steps to ensure that the proper follow-up is being taken. That would be in this case as well.

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

So in the situation with the public safety minister, is there a formal complaint lodged, whether it be with the RCMP or some other police force? Has that happened in this case?

11:55 a.m.

Clerk of the House of Commons

Audrey O'Brien

Mr. Chairman, the sergeant would not like to get into the details of this individual case in a public situation. I think it's fair to say, though, that the House as an administration wouldn't be in a position to make that kind of complaint—just to clarify that.

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Okay.

At a more general level, Mr. Vickers, you're indicating regular contact with other police forces. Again, Mr. Bard may know this. For these incidents where charges have been laid, in both England and the United States, would our staff be monitoring those charges to see what the outcome was?

11:55 a.m.

Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Commons

Kevin Vickers

It would be my practice if I were aware of a certain threat against any member of Parliament to ensure that proper follow-up was being taken with that particular member of Parliament. I and our staff would keep ourselves apprised until the matter was resolved one way or the other.

11:55 a.m.

Clerk of the House of Commons

Audrey O'Brien

If I may, Mr. Chair, I think it would be overstating it to say that we would monitor the outcome of the investigation in the United States or the United Kingdom. But we'd certainly keep ourselves aware of the developments there.

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Just in terms of I guess the public generally, would we have the right to expect that for the most recent case in the United States, which I think has been seen as a fairly major breakthrough in terms of their ability to track—that was specifically Anonymous—they would be monitoring that?

I'm sorry, maybe I should explain what I'm looking for here. One of our responsibilities is to try to identify the culprit. I'm looking for sources that may be able to give this committee some assistance in that regard, recognizing, Ms. O'Brien, what you've said.

There's no way this committee has the ability to identify the culprit. It's going to have to be done by someone else. So I'm trying to figure out if that assistance is available either through our police forces or through our police forces having contact with police forces in other countries.

11:55 a.m.

Clerk of the House of Commons

Audrey O'Brien

I think maybe the sergeant can answer that.

11:55 a.m.

Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Commons

Kevin Vickers

Mr. Chair, I can assure you that we, the House, are in contact on general practices and procedures. In the case in particular with Anonymous, I'm aware of recent successes you're referring to.

I'm also aware that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are considered world-class on these types of investigations. They work hand in hand with the other security partners around the world in doing those. It may benefit the committee at some point in time to have those RCMP experts come before you to give you pertinent information.

The competencies, as far as I know, are certainly there. As you pointed out, there certainly have been a number of recent examples where success has been obtained in identifying, through criminal investigation, who is responsible.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Comartin. I allowed you to go very long because the chair was very interested in the answers too.

Mr. Albrecht, keep it as interesting, will you, please?

March 15th, 2012 / 11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Oh, Mr. Chair, I'm not sure I can guarantee that, having worked with Mr. Comartin.

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to our witnesses for being here.

As I try to review this and get a handle on it, it seems to me there are three levels of concern. One is the parliamentary precinct.

Mr. Bard, thank you for assuring us that many of the e-mails that would arrive here don't arrive, as they would simply be problematic.

The second layer is the constituency office. As I recall, when we set up our constituency office we received a very good package of material, with good information, good instruction. In fact, I think there were some pretty clearly proscribed practices we were not allowed to engage in. I think that's healthy.

I have a concern now, after hearing you today: is that being monitored on an ongoing basis, or should I be proactive, as an individual member of Parliament, in asking for help in my constituency office to be sure that it's on an ongoing basis, and as safe as it was when we started?

My third question—I'll get them all out, and you can maybe touch on all of them—has to do with another area of concern that I think all of us around the table would share. What about our personal computers? What about our families' computers? What about our staff members' personal computers? Are there things we should be aware of in terms of preventive measures that we should be taking as individuals? And if in fact that is true, are you available for counsel for us on those issues as well?

11:55 a.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Now I've crossed the line.

Noon

Chief Information Officer, House of Commons

Louis Bard

That's a very, very expensive question.

Noon

Voices

Oh, oh!

Noon

Chief Information Officer, House of Commons

Louis Bard

No, no, there's no doubt that we always work really hard on our awareness campaigns for the members, providing you with information kits, documents, doing your inventory, assessing your computers. We have laptop clinics. When you come back from a summer recess, we watch in the chambers to make sure that there are no surprises you're bringing back for us on your laptop from your riding. We try to be ahead of the game and to be able to help you as much as we can.

However, you are the person running the constituency office, so you need to have those best practices to redo your risk assessment, to have a package that you review regularly to make sure that you understand your risk and understand the issues and if there are any threats or anything like this. And yes, we can always refresh that and help you with that.

The same kind of exercise can be applied to your family. You can use the same material to apply security within your own house, because the same questions will apply on how you set it up. Do you have good protection? Do you maintain your antivirus? There are so many things you can do. How do you do your banking, and who has access to what?

Noon

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

I do appreciate the offer that your department makes, each time we come back from our constituencies, to look at our laptops. I've always taken advantage of that, and I think that's very helpful.

Is there a process similar to this that would sort of prod or nudge our constituency office staff to be sure that they're also engaging in a similar repetitive review process to be sure that...? Or do we have to be proactive on that as individual MPs?

Noon

Chief Information Officer, House of Commons

Louis Bard

If members are interested, I think we can give you a package that can be used to assess your own situation. We can find ways to review this on a regular basis to make sure that we prompt you to look at this.