China-based hackers hit Bay Street law firms

The Toronto offices of several Canadian law firms handling a $40 billion potash deal were targeted by hackers believed to be based in China, according to a report by Bloomberg Businessweek.

The report said that over a few months beginning in Sept. 2010, hackers broke into the computer networks of seven different law firms as well as Canada’s Finance Ministry and the Treasury Board.

The investigation linked the hacking to a Chinese effort to derail the takeover of Postash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc., by BHP Billiton Ltd., as part of a global competition of natural resources, according to Daniel Tobok, president of Digital Wyzdom, a Toronto-based cyber security firm hired by the targeted law firms to help in the investigation.

The Canadian government later canceled BHP takeover using federal powers to declare it wasn’t in the nation’s interest. The incident, however, illustrates how government departments and private officers are vulnerable to cyber attacks.

Last year, Chinese government authorities denied involvement in a reported cyber attack on the Canadian government, which was ultimately traced to a Chinese server. Canadian auithorities were forced to shut down Internet access of thousands of workers in the Finance Department and Treasury Board after workers received e-mails “conning them” into providing key passwords to government networks.

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