Rescinded [2019-06-28] - Operational Security Standard: Management of Information Technology Security (MITS)

Defines baseline security requirements that federal departments and agencies must fulfill to ensure the security of information and information technology assets under their control.
Date modified: 2004-05-31

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A standard pursuant to the Government Security Policy and the Policy on the Management of Government Information

Part I - Introduction

1. Purpose

This standard defines baseline security requirements that federal departments must fulfill to ensure the security of information and information technology (IT) assets under their control.

2. Scope and Application

The Government Security Policy states requirements for protecting government assets, including information, and directs the federal departments and agencies to which it applies to have an IT security strategy. The Policy on the Management of Government Information requires that departments protect information throughout its life cycle. This standard expands upon the requirements of both these policies. It also replaces the Information Technology Security Standard (1995), Chapter 2-3 of the Treasury Board Information and Administrative Management Security Manual.

The Government Security Policy defines IT security as the "safeguards to preserve the confidentiality, integrity, availability, intended use and value of electronically stored, processed or transmitted information." For the purposes of this standard, the term 'IT security' will also include the safeguards applied to the assets used to gather, process, receive, display, transmit, reconfigure, scan, store or destroy information electronically.

3. Risk Management Philosophy

This standard establishes requirements for IT security, though the implementation of these requirements is to be managed by departments. Technical documentation, issued pursuant to this standard, will provide further implementation guidance.

As defined in the Government Security Policy, baseline security requirements are "mandatory provisions" that achieve consistency across the federal government and provide a minimum level of protection for departments. As part of a department's corporate risk profile, as described by the Integrated Risk Management Framework (IRMF), the specific implementation of the baseline requirements and additional safeguards should be determined by risk management.

4. Principles

Service delivery requires IT security.

IT security is an integral part of continuous program and service delivery. To avoid the loss of service and trust that IT security breaches can cause, departments need to view IT security as a business imperative; a "service enabler."

Although program and service delivery managers may delegate responsibility for IT security to technical experts, they remain accountable to the Deputy Head and are responsible for ensuring the security of the programs and services under their authority.

IT security practices need to reflect the changing environment.

Information technology continues to rapidly advance in support of greater interconnectedness and improved service delivery. At the same time, the number and potential severity of threats, vulnerabilities and incidents similarly increase. Departments need to be aware of this evolving environment, and understand how to manage their IT security programs in order to respond.

The Government of Canada is a single entity.

The increased availability of common and shared services can help departments in meeting their security requirements. While this offers the potential for improved efficiency, departments have to recognize that the security decisions they make can impact other organizations.

Working together to support IT security.

Far more than the sum of the tools used to protect information and systems, an effective IT security program combines people, processes and technologies. Each department's senior managers, program and service delivery managers, security personnel, IT operational personnel, human resources personnel and other stakeholders work together in a concerted manner to achieve the same high level of IT security across the federal government.

Decision-making requires continuous risk management.

In order to make sound business decisions based upon risk management, departments need to continually be aware of the assets they hold, and their associated sensitivity and criticality. Decisions should be made based upon risk management that recognizes the potential impacts to the department, and to government as a whole.

5. Related Policies and Standards

The Government issues policies, standards and guidelines that address information management, IT and security. This standard should be read in conjunction with the related policies, standards and guidelines. See appendix A for further information.

6. Structure of This Standard

This standard has three major parts, plus appendices. Part I provides general information on IT security. Part II provides direction on the organization and management of IT security within departments. Part III provides direction on technical and operational safeguards.

7. Lead Departments and Agencies

Appendix A of the Government Security Policy defines the roles and responsibilities of departments and agencies that play a lead role in information and IT security within the Government.

Part II - Departmental IT Security Organization and Management

8. Introduction

This part of the standard provides direction and guidance on how to organize and manage a departmental IT security program. It covers roles and responsibilities, policy, resources and management controls.

9. Roles and Responsibilities

Although departments differ in how they assign the following roles and responsibilities (e.g. they may use different titles than those indicated), each department must designate individuals to perform the functions noted in this section.

9.1 IT Security Coordinator

Departments must appoint an IT Security Coordinator with at least a functional reporting relationship to both the departmental Chief Information Officer and the Departmental Security Officer.

At a minimum, the IT Security Coordinator must

  • establish and manage a departmental IT security program as part of a coordinated departmental security program,
  • review and recommend approval of departmental IT security policies and standards, and all policies that have IT security implications,
  • ensure review of the IT security related portions of Request for Proposals and other contracting documentation, including Security Requirements Checklists,
  • recommend approval of all contracts for external providers of IT security services,
  • work closely with program and service delivery managers to
    • ensure their IT security needs are met,
    • provide advice on safeguards,
    • advise them of potential impacts of new and existing threats, and
    • advise them on the residual risk of a program or service,
  • monitor departmental compliance with this standard and associated documentation,
  • promote IT security in the department,
  • establish an effective process to manage IT security incidents, and monitor compliance with it, and
  • serve as the department's principal IT security contact.

The IT Security Coordinator position must be screened to the secret level or higher. In hiring for this position, departments should give preference to individuals with appropriate professional certification.

9.2 Senior Management

One of the roles of senior management is to foster a "culture of security" across the department.

When defining the department's priorities, strategic directions, program objectives, budget and personnel allocations, senior management must address IT security requirements. Senior management must also ensure adequate funding for security in IT projects, in accordance with Section 10.12 of the Government Security Policy.

Senior management must approve departmental IT security policies, standards and directives.

9.3 Departmental Security Officer

Section 10.1 of the Government Security Policy requires departments to appoint a Departmental Security Officer to establish and direct a departmental security program, and provides a list of their responsibilities.

The Departmental Security Officer and the IT Security Coordinator must ensure that physical, personnel and IT security stakeholders coordinate their efforts to protect information and IT assets and ensure an integrated, balanced approach.

9.4 Chief Information Officer

The department's Chief Information Officer is responsible for ensuring the effective and efficient management of the department's information and IT assets. Given the potential impact of service delivery failures due to security breaches, the Chief Information Officer and the IT Security Coordinator must work together to ensure that appropriate security measures are applied to all departmental IM and IT assets, activities and processes.

9.5 Business Continuity Planning Coordinator

The Chief Information Officer, Departmental Security Officer, IT Security Coordinator and the Business Continuity Planning Coordinator must work together to ensure a comprehensive approach to continuous service delivery. Refer to the Operational Security Standard on Business Continuity Planning Program.

9.6 Program and Service Delivery Managers

On behalf of the department's Deputy Head, program and service delivery managers are responsible for ensuring an appropriate level of security for their programs and services. In designing programs and services, managers will work with departmental security specialists to risk manage their programs or services. Relying on the advice and support of the IT Security Coordinator, managers must determine the IT security requirements of their programs and services, have them accredited, and accept the associated residual risk.

Managers must ensure that, within their areas of responsibility, the requirements stated in this standard, the Government Security Policy and other related policies, standards and technical documentation, are met.

9.7 IT Operational Personnel

IT operational personnel includes network or system administrators or managers, help desk personnel, account managers, system security, maintenance and all other IT support personnel. Under the general direction of the IT Security Coordinator and in accordance with departmental priorities, policies and procedures, IT operational personnel must

  • follow security procedures and recommend improvements to them,
  • respond to security incidents,
  • test and install security patches,
  • maintain or upgrade security hardware and software,
  • monitor systems and logs,
  • back up and recover information, and
  • manage access privileges and rights.

9.8 Other Personnel

All personnel must abide by the Government's and the department's IT security policy, procedures and other related documentation. They must report real and suspected security incidents to designated security officials, normally through their immediate supervisor. For the purpose of this standard, personnel include employees, staff, contractors, students, visitors, and Canadian Forces.

9.9 COMSEC Custodian

Departments that hold classified cryptographic material, controlled cryptographic items or "accountable" publications require a COMSEC (Communications Security) account. These departments must appoint a COMSEC custodian (and an alternate, if required) to account for this material, items and publications in accordance with Communications Security Establishment instructions.

9.10 IT Project Managers

With guidance from the IT Security Coordinator and IT operational personnel, IT project managers must ensure that project security requirements are met through the development and implementation of technical security specifications.

10. Departmental IT Security Policy

Every department must have a department IT security policy based on the Government Security Policy, this standard and other related policies, standards and technical documentation. This policy can be a separate document or it can be policy statements within the departmental security policy.

As a minimum, a departmental IT security policy must

  • define the roles and responsibilities of program and service delivery managers, the Chief Information Officer, departmental legal, privacy specialists and security specialists, and other personnel with regard to IT security
  • make the necessary connections with other departmental policies, standards, and legal and regulatory requirements that relate to IT security (e.g., an acceptable use policy)
  • state the requirement for making IT security an integral part of program and service delivery
  • state a requirement for seeking funding in support of IT security requirements,
  • state requirements for the review and revision of the departmental IT security policy and supporting documentation.

11. IT Security Resources for Projects

In planning new programs, services or major upgrades to existing programs or services, the managers responsible must, at the earliest stage of the funding and approval process, determine the IT security requirements for these programs, services or upgrades and include resource requirements in funding requests.

12. Management Controls

This section describes the management controls that apply to all departmental programs and services. Part III of this standard defines the technical and operational safeguards that support these controls.

12.1 Security in the System Development Life Cycle

Given the difficulty of implementing cost-effective IT safeguards after a system has been deployed and because technologies and threats continuously change, departments must address security and adjust security requirements throughout all the following stages of the system development life cycle, including at the earliest stages of planning and review:

An initial Threat and Risk Assessment will provide input for IT security requirements.
Design and Development
An appropriate balance of technical, managerial, operational, physical and personnel security safeguards will help to meet the requirements determined by the Threat and Risk Assessment.
Design documentation, acceptance tests, and certification and accreditation are to be performed.
System security is monitored and maintained while Threat and Risk Assessments aid in the evaluation of modifications that could affect security.
In accordance with archival and security standards and guidelines, archive or dispose of sensitive IT assets and information resident on the system.

Given that systems underlie most programs and services, the system development life cycle approach to IT security also applies to the management of programs and services.

12.2 Identification and Categorization of Information and IT Assets

In accordance with the Operational Security Standard for the Identification and Categorization of Assets, departments must determine the criticality and sensitivity of their information and IT assets with regard to confidentiality, integrity, availability and value.

This process is key to identifying departmental IT security priorities and aids in determining the graduated application of controls and safeguards in this standard and associated technical documentation.

12.3 Security Risk Management

Departments must continuously manage the security risks to information and IT assets throughout the life of their programs and services.

Security risk management is only one element of business or service risk management, as described by the Integrated Risk Management Framework.

Security risk management activities include Threat and Risk Assessments, audits, Business Impact Analysis, Privacy Impact Assessments, self-assessments, monitoring, security investigations, and Vulnerability Assessments. Given that some of these activities will generate the same or similar risk management information, the program or service delivery manager should avoid duplication by ensuring that these activities are coordinated and that the information garnered from them is shared (in accordance with laws and policies dealing with the collection, use, disclosure and retention of information).

12.3.1 Graduation of Controls and Safeguards

The graduated application of management controls and technical and operational safeguards should be based upon at least the following:

  • The sensitivity and criticality of related program or service assets,
  • Threats to asset confidentiality, integrity, availability or value,
  • Known vulnerabilities for the program or service,
  • Incident data or history,
  • Exposure of assets to threats (e.g. exposure to the Internet).

These activities contribute to the risk management of programs, systems and services.

12.3.2 Threat and Risk Assessment

A Threat and Risk Assessment aids in the determination of security requirements. Departments must apply security measures above baseline levels when justified by a Threat and Risk Assessment.

The steps of a Threat and Risk Assessment are to

  • identify and categorize information and related assets according to their sensitivity (noting this information in a "Statement of Sensitivity"),
  • assess the threats and system vulnerabilities that could affect the delivery of a program or service,
  • determine the level of risk, based on current safeguards and system vulnerabilities, and
  • recommend safeguards that will mitigate risk to an acceptable level.

Departments should coordinate their identification and categorization of assets with related activities such as Privacy Impact Assessments or Business Impact Analysis.

Departments must conduct a Threat and Risk Assessment for every program, system or service. Threat and Risk Assessments can be short and simple or far more detailed and rigorous, depending on the sensitivity, criticality and complexity of the program, system or service being assessed.

For programs, systems or services in which the operating environment and security concerns are the same or similar, departments are encouraged to develop "generic" Threat and Risk Assessments that can be reused.

12.3.3 Certification and Accreditation

The purpose of certification is to verify that the security requirements established for a particular system or service are met and that the controls and safeguards work as intended. The purpose of accreditation is to signify that management has authorized the system or service to operate and has accepted the residual risk of operating the system or service, based on the certification evidence.

Departments must have their systems or services certified and accredited before approving them for operation. The graduated performance of certification depends upon the quantity and quality of certification evidence required by the accreditation authority. Such evidence can include the results of any applicable Threat and Risk Assessment, a Business Impact Assessment, a Privacy Impact Assessment, a Vulnerability Assessment, security tests and product evaluation, self-assessments, audits and security reviews and related legal or policy assessments that demonstrate conformance to relevant legislation or policy.

Departments must periodically review the accreditation of systems or services if the systems or services have changed significantly or if warranted due to changes in the risk environment.

For common systems or services, the Government of Canada Chief Information Officer is the accreditation authority. For systems or services that are specific to a department, the program or service delivery manager is responsible for accreditation. For systems or services shared by two or more organizations, the manager of the program or service is the accreditation authority.

12.4 Incident Management

Incident management consists of the management of incidents from their discovery to the implementation of appropriate responses. Incident discovery is often implemented through systems that detect incident occurrence. Once detected, departments need to be able to properly identify and respond to the incident, both within their department and as part of a coordinated response across government.

Incident management is part of an active defence strategy as described in Section 15. Refer to Sections 17 and 18 for further information on the management of incidents.

12.5 Vulnerability Management

Departments must continuously manage vulnerabilities for their programs, systems and services. This management task includes the discovery of vulnerabilities, and the implementation of corresponding solutions. As part of discovery, departments must actively review sources of vulnerability information to determine the potential affect on their programs, systems and services.

As part of solution management, departments must determine the risk posed by vulnerabilities. Based upon this risk, departments should test the impact of the proposed solution to the vulnerability, and subsequently implement and deploy the solution (e.g. software patch). Departments that discover a system vulnerability for which there is no patch should use another method to mitigate the risk (e.g. configuration change).

12.5.1 Vulnerability Assessments

A Vulnerability Assessment supports the discovery of vulnerabilities in existing systems. Departments must conduct a Vulnerability Assessment regularly on highly sensitive or highly exposed systems, and on a discretionary basis on other systems.

Departments must document Vulnerability Assessments, subsequent decisions and remedial actions, e.g. software patches.

12.5.2 Patch Management

The failure to promptly apply security-related patches can lead to serious IT security incidents. Departments must establish a systematic, documented patch management process to ensure they apply security-related patches in a timely manner. The IT Security Coordinator must ensure that this process is effective and that the department follows it.

12.6 Segregation of Responsibilities

Assigning all responsibilities related to an IT system or business function to a single individual can make a system vulnerable to undetected abuse or a single point of failure. To ensure that no single person has complete control of an entire IT system or a major operational function, departments must segregate IT responsibilities as much as possible. Individuals who are authorized to conduct sensitive operations must not be allowed to audit these operations.

12.7 Contracting

Departments need to address IT security requirements in the contracting process. Before issuing a contract, departments must ascertain if IT security is relevant to the goods or services to be provided by the contractor, and if so, account for the security requirements at every stage of contracting.

Departments must identify individuals within the department to oversee the work of external IT security service providers.

For more information, refer to the Security and Contracting Management Standard.

12.8 Continuity Planning

Information management (IM) continuity planning and information technology (IT) continuity planning are integral elements of business continuity planning. One of the objectives of IM continuity planning is to ensure minimal or no interruption in the availability of information assets. One of the objectives of IT continuity planning is to ensure minimal or no interruption in the availability of critical IT services and assets. As part of their business continuity planning, departments must produce and routinely test and revise an IM continuity plan and an IT continuity plan. The Business Continuity Planning Coordinator must collaborate with the IT Security Coordinator throughout business continuity planning.

For further information, refer to the Business Continuity Planning Program Operational Security Standard.

12.9 Sanctions

Section 10.16 of the Government Security Policy requires departments to apply sanctions to IT security incidents when in the opinion of the deputy head there has been misconduct or negligence. For further information refer to the Operational Security Standard on Sanctions and the Treasury Board Guidelines for Discipline.

12.10 Sharing and Exchange of Information and IT Assets

Departments that share information, IT infrastructure or other IT assets must establish a written security arrangement that defines the terms and conditions of any authorized sharing, and recognize any legal impediments to the sharing. As stated in Section 10.2 of the Government Security Policy, departments that share information or other assets or use common infrastructure must conform to the security standards defined for that system or infrastructure.

Departments that hold or use information from outside the Government of Canada (e.g., from industry, provincial government, or international parties) must respect existing agreements or arrangements with the parties that have provided the information.

12.11 Departmental IT Security Assessment and Audit

Departments need to actively monitor their management practices and controls. As part of this responsibility, departments assess and audit IT security and remedy deficiencies where necessary.

12.11.1 Self-Assessment

Departments must conduct an annual assessment of their IT security program and practices to monitor compliance with government and departmental security policies and standards using the IT Security Self-Assessment methodology developed by the Treasury Board Secretariat. This methodology will be detailed in subsequent documentation.

The IT Security Self-Assessment will identify deficiencies and help departments recognize and implement remedial action. Based on the results of this self-assessment, departments must develop or update their IT security action plan and determine the resources required to implement it.

To help Treasury Board Secretariat assess the state of security across government, departments must submit their IT Security Self-Assessment whenever the Government's Chief Information Officer requests it.

12.11.2 Internal Audit

Planning for IT security audits must be incorporated into the overall departmental internal audit planning process, and prioritized in accordance with the TBS Policy on Internal Audit, departmental and Government of Canada requirements and the overall departmental risk management strategy and practices. In general, the internal audit planning process assigns priority to the areas of higher materiality and risk, fundamental departmental financial, administrative or control systems and external performance reporting processes.

The IT Security Coordinator and the Chief Information Officer must be consulted during each phase of any audit of the IT security program, and in all audits of departmental programs or services that have an IT security component. The IT Security Coordinator must prepare a written response to the IT security audit and develop an action plan for senior management approval.

12.12 IT Security Awareness

Departments must inform and regularly remind personnel of IT security responsibilities, concerns and issues. These personnel include all those with access to the governmental information and IT assets. Departments must provide IT security awareness in their employee orientation training. Departments should incorporate IT security awareness into their broader departmental security awareness program.

Departments must ensure that all personnel know of the security risks associated with computers at workstations and other equipment (e.g. Personal Digital Assistants - PDAs), given that the security of the information accessed depends primarily on the person using the equipment.

To increase employee awareness, departments are encouraged to post notices about IT security in all areas where personnel work, and check workstations routinely to ensure personnel are respecting IT security practices

12.13 IT Security Training

Departments must provide ongoing IT security training to all individuals with significant IT security responsibilities.

Part III - Technical and operational safeguards

Part III provides direction and guidance on some of the technical and operational safeguards that are available. Departments select a combination of these and potentially other safeguards that together reduce the residual risk to an acceptable level. Additional safeguards are described in other security standards and technical documentation.

13. Graduated Safeguards

Departments must apply graduated safeguards that are commensurate with the risks to their information and IT assets, with more rigorous safeguards as asset values, service delivery requirements and threats to confidentiality, availability or integrity increase. Factors affecting the graduation level are discussed in Section 12.3.1.

Departments can reduce overall security costs for IT systems by segregating sensitive information and services and focusing more expensive and restrictive safeguards on a limited array of assets.

14. IT Processes That Support Security

As a foundation for IT security, departments would apply the following general controls.

14.1 Configuration Management and Change Control

When proposing configuration management or system changes, departments must seek the advice of the IT Security Coordinator where changes could potentially compromise security.

14.2 Problem Reporting/Help Desk

IT security measures must be incorporated into the routine functions of the Department's problem reporting process or centralized Help Desk facility. The Help Desk is typically the first point of contact for users to report issues such as password problems, data corruption, network performance issues, or service outages. Where the incident involves a possible security breach, documented response procedures must outline how Help Desk personnel will document the event, identify trends, notify the IT Security Coordinator or an incident response team, and instruct the user on how to proceed.

14.3 Capacity Planning

In support of availability requirements, departments should monitor system and network capacity in order to plan and implement timely capacity changes.

14.4 System Support Services

Departments must ensure that underlying system services (e.g. trusted time, event logging) are provided to support security services.

Based on a trusted time source, departments provide an accurate time and date throughout their systems and networks. Trusted time is particularly important in activities as electronic financial transactions and digital signatures, and for audit and investigations.

15. Active Defence Strategy

Departments must adopt an active defence strategy that includes prevention, detection, response and recovery (PDRR). Prevention is the first line of defence. Because prevention safeguards can be defeated, departments have to be able to detect incidents rapidly, respond quickly to contain damage, and recover systems and data in a timely manner.

Departments must continuously monitor threats and vulnerabilities and, where required, take proactive countermeasures. Departments must take action in response to alerts and advisories from Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada (PSEPC), and consider information from security vendors and external surveillance bodies such as the Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center (CERT CC). During increased Readiness Levels or periods of heightened IT threat, departments are required to increase their vigilance by, for example, increasing the operating hours of a departmental Information Protection Centre (IPC) to twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

Departments that have highly sensitive, critical information and IT assets or that depend on complex networks and systems may benefit from establishing a dedicated Information Protection Centre (IPC). An IPC would coordinate active defence within the department, and ensure the department communicates and cooperates with PSEPC and other security organizations.

16. Prevention

Prevention safeguards protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information and IT assets.

16.1 Physical Security within the IT Security Environment

Physical security measures, e.g., locks and alarm systems, reduce the risk of unauthorized access to information and IT assets. Physical security can also protect information and IT assets from fire, floods, earthquakes, and power failure etc.

The requirements set out in section 10.11 of the Government Security Policy and the Operational Security Standard on Physical Security apply to information technology systems, facilities and service spaces. This includes defining security requirements in IT accommodation plans, and using appropriate physical security zones, containers and other security mechanisms to protect IT information and assets.

Departments must protect portable devices such as laptops, handheld digital devices and cell phones, given the information they contain and their monetary value.

Departments that need to destroy or dispose of IT media containing classified or protected information must follow the methods and procedures defined in associated technical documentation.

16.2 Storage, Disposal and Destruction of IT Media

Departments must mark IT media containing classified or protected information in accordance with the Operational Security Standard on the Identification of Assets, and must, in accordance with the Operational Security Standard on Physical Security:

  • store backup or sensitive IT media, supporting high or medium availability systems or services, in containers designed to resist fire or other environmental damage (this applies to both on-site and off-site storage), and
  • dispose of IT media containing classified or protected information

16.3 Personnel Security in the IT Security Environment

The purpose of personnel security measures is to establish trust in personnel and others, who require access to government systems and networks.

The security requirements for personnel screening in section 10.9 of the GSP and the Operational Security Standard on Security Screening apply to positions and contracts requiring access to information and assets relating to information technology and ITS. In addition, departments must screen, to at least the secret level, all personnel with privileged access to critical systems.

16.4 Technical Safeguards

16.4.1 Selection of Security Products

Departments should consider the cost, quality, effectiveness, ease-of-use, assurance, and impact on the performance of the department's systems when selecting security products.

Departments should use evaluated products, especially in systems where the security afforded by that product is assured. Evaluated products should be evaluated based on ISO/IEC 15408, the Common Criteria for Information Technology Security Evaluation.

Where evaluated products are not selected, departments should validate this choice and provide alternate forms of assurance as part of certification and accreditation.

16.4.2 Identification and Authentication

Departments must incorporate identification and authentication safeguards in all their networks and systems, according to the level or risk for the network or system. When assigning a unique identifier for users, departments must ensure the proper identification of the individual to whom the identifier is issued.

Identification and authentication is important because most other security safeguards rely on it. For low-risk environments (e.g., access from an internal network, or systems with low sensitivity information), departments can use simple authentication methods (e.g., password) if passwords are well managed and protected. For higher risk environments (e.g., access from external networks such as the Internet, or systems with high sensitivity information), departments can use stronger authentication methods (e.g. cryptographic-based). If additional security is required, departments can use safeguards such as tokens or biometrics.

16.4.3 Authorization and Access Control

Departments must restrict IT and information access to individuals who have been screened and authorized; have been identified and authenticated; and have a "need to know."

Departments must keep access to the minimum required for individuals to perform their duties (i.e., the least-privilege principle), and ensure that they are regularly updated to accurately reflect the current responsibilities of the individual.

Departments must withdraw access privileges from individuals (including students, contractors, or others with short-term access) who leave the organization, and revise access privileges when individuals move to jobs that don't require the same level of access.

16.4.4 Cryptography

When properly used, cryptography is an effective means of ensuring confidentiality, integrity, authentication and non-repudiation. Departments must ensure effective key management, including the protection and recovery of cryptographic keys.

Departments must use encryption or other safeguards endorsed or approved by the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) to protect the electronic communication of classified and Protected C information. Departments should encrypt Protected A and B information, when supported by a Threat and Risk Assessment. However, departments must encrypt protected B information before transmitting it across the Internet or a wireless network.

16.4.5 Public Key Infrastructure

Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) is one way that departments can fulfill requirements for authentication, confidentiality, integrity and non-repudiation. PKI provides public key encryption and digital signatures as well as processes for managing public keys.

For further information refer to the PKI Management in the Government of Canada Policy and to the Government of Canada Certificate Policies. The certificate policies define the security requirements for certificates at various assurance levels.

16.4.6 Network Security and Perimeter Defence

Departments must segregate networks into IT security zones and implement perimeter defence and network security safeguards. The Baseline Security Requirements for IT Security Zones standard describes such an implementation. The use of IT security zones by all departments ensures a consistent, minimum level of protection of data communication networks across the government.

Departments must strictly control all Public Zone interfaces, including all external uncontrolled networks such as the Internet, at a defined security perimeter. Departments must use perimeter defence safeguards (e.g. firewalls, routers) to mediate all traffic and to protect servers that are accessible from the Internet.

16.4.7 Mobile Computing and Teleworking

Off-site use of departmental IT assets can introduce additional information security risks. Departments that allow personnel to access departmental information and IT assets, networks and systems from outside their government offices must establish procedures for such use.

To protect the remote computer, the information it contains, and the communications link, departments should use an effective combination of physical protection measures, access controls, encryption, malicious code protection (e.g. virus scanners), backups, security configuration settings (e.g. operating system controls), identification and authentication safeguards, and network security controls (e.g. a PC firewall).

Departments must ensure that personnel working off-site are made aware of their security responsibilities, including the sensitivity and criticality of the information and IT assets they access.

16.4.8 Wireless Devices

The use of wireless devices can introduce additional information security risks. Departments must apply appropriate safeguards and restrict the use of such devices to individuals who have received departmental approval.

Users must turn off wireless devices with a voice transmission capability when attending a meeting at which sensitive information, above Protected A, is being shared.

Departments should contact the Communications Security Establishment for further guidance on the use of wireless devices.

16.4.9 Emanations Security

Most electronic equipment radiates electromagnetic signals that, if intercepted, can compromise sensitive information. Two fundamental approaches to mitigating this risk are source suppression and containment of the information- bearing signals. Collectively, these safeguards are referred to as TEMPEST.

In Canada, departments should use TEMPEST protection for Top Secret and Protected C information when justified by a Threat and Risk Assessment. At posts abroad, departments should apply TEMPEST protection to all classified information when justified by a Threat and Risk Assessment.

16.4.10 Telecommunications Cabling

Departments need to protect telecommunications cabling from unauthorized interception and damage. Departments must authorize, control and monitor access to telecommunications wiring, spaces and pathways (i.e., telecommunications rooms, main terminal rooms and other equipment rooms) in a manner appropriate for the sensitivity level of the information being transmitted.

Departments should ensure additional protection, such as a Red Distribution System (RDS), for the transmission of Protected C and classified information.

Where physical security safeguards are impractical, departments should use encryption or other methods approved by the Communication Security Establishment.

16.4.11 Software Integrity and Security Configuration

Safeguards to prevent and detect the integrity of software can help to avoid many potential security incidents.

Departments should configure their operating systems and application software in accordance with security best practices. Departments must configure their systems to control the use of mobile code (e.g. Javascript).

Departments must implement safeguards to "harden" software that is exposed to the Internet (e.g. Web servers and their software) or servers supporting sensitive applications. At a minimum, departments should remove or disable unnecessary services and applications and properly configure user authentication.

Departments should prohibit the use of unauthorized software, and should have a capability to scan networks to detect unauthorized software.

For more information on software hardening and configuration best practices, refer to the best practices issued by the Communications Security Establishment, the National Institute for Standards and Technology, and the Center for Internet Security.

16.4.12 Malicious Code

IT systems are vulnerable to malicious code such as viruses, Trojan horses, and network worms. E-mail file attachments are among the most common sources of malicious code.

Departments must install, use and regularly update antivirus software and conduct malicious code scans on all electronic files from external systems. Departments must install new virus definitions as soon as practical. Departments should implement antivirus detection software at several points in the infrastructure including desktop computers, servers, and departmental entry points.

17. Detection

To detect incidents, departments can, subject to applicable laws and relevant policies, use firewalls and routers, audit logs, virus and malicious code detection software, system performance tools, health-monitoring tools, integrity checkers, and host- and network-based intrusion detection systems. The rigor and extent of detection will depend on the level of risk, including the sensitivity (in terms of confidentiality, availability and integrity) and the system exposure.

To protect information and ensure service delivery departments must continuously monitor system performance to rapidly detect:

  • attempts (failed or successful) to gain unauthorized access to a system, or to bypass security mechanisms
  • unauthorized probes or scans to identify system vulnerabilities
  • unplanned disruption of systems or services
  • denial-of-service attacks
  • unauthorized changes to system hardware, firmware, or software
  • system performance anomalies, and
  • known attack signatures.

At a minimum, departments must include a security audit log function in all IT systems. Departments must incorporate automated, real-time, incident detection tools in high risk systems.

Refer to supporting technical documentation for additional guidance on detection.

18. Response and Recovery

18.1 Incident Response Coordination

Section 10.12.3 of the Government Security Policy requires departments to establish mechanisms to respond effectively to IT incidents and exchange incident-related information with designated lead departments in a timely fashion. To do so, departments must appoint an individual or establish a centre to coordinate incident response and act as a point of contact for communication with respect to government-wide incident response. Departments that do not have an Information Protection Centre should assign this function to the IT Security Coordinator.

The Government of Canada systems and networks should be viewed as a single interconnected entity that requires a coordinated incident response. PSEPC is responsible for coordinating incident response across the federal government and, with other lead agencies, providing technical assistance, advice and information on the handling of IT security incidents.

Incident handling generally follows five stages:

  • Identification - determine the type, severity and cause of the incident(s) (e.g. virus, worm, denial-of-service-attack),
  • Response - determine the best approach and take action to contain the damage (e.g. disconnect, disable, block, or update computer or network configurations),
  • Reporting - communicate the incident specifics, including the impact and the response, to PSEPC and departmental management,
  • Recovery - identify an approach to restore and recover systems and implement approved changes to security devices (e.g. firewall and incident detection rules), and
  • Post-Analysis - Assess the incident and recommend changes in processes and procedures, if required.

18.2 Incident Identification and Prioritization

If monitoring reveals an anomaly, departments must determine whether the cause is a security incident, a hardware or software problem, or an increase in client demand. An IT security incident refers to an adverse event in an information system or network or the threat of the occurrence of such an event. Incidents can include but are not limited to:

  • Denial of Service (DoS) - an attack that could prevent the usage of networks, systems, or applications,
  • Malicious Code - a virus, worm, Trojan horse, or other code-based malicious entity that infects a host,
  • Unauthorized Access - a user who gains access without permission to a network, system, applications, data, or other resource, and
  • Multiple Impacts - a combination of a number of computer events occurring at the same time or a computer event in coordination with other malicious or accident incidents.

To analyze IT security incidents effectively, departments must understand the types of IT security incidents that can occur, their potential impact, the technical and operational environment, and service delivery priorities.

  • Typically this analysis involves the following steps:
  • Determine if an incident has occurred
  • Perform an assessment of the severity of impact or potential impact
  • Identify the type, cause, and source
  • Log the event

If more than one incident occurs at the same time or is too complex, departments should prioritize and focus on the most significant incident event first. Factors to consider include risks related /to:

  • Human life and safety,
  • Valuable, sensitive and critical information and assets,
  • Disruption to operations or services, and
  • Public confidence

18.3 Incident Response

Departments must develop incident response procedures to follow in order to mitigate damage, contain the cause of the incidents and restore services.

Given the interconnectivity of the Government of Canada, departments must always, when responding to an IT security incident, consider the impact of their actions or inaction on other federal organizations.

Departments must maintain operational records that show how incidents were handled, documenting the chain of events during the incident, noting the time when the incident was detected; the actions taken; the rationale for decisions; details of communications; management approvals or direction; and external and internal reports.

18.4 Incident Reporting

Section 10.15 of the Government Security Policy requires departments to establish an internal and external incident reporting process. To meet these requirements, departments must

  • report incidents and threats to, and share information, subject to applicable legislation and relevant policies, about the incidents and the effectiveness of their response with PSEPC,
  • participate in threat and risk briefings and teleconferences,
  • provide PSEPC with current 24/7 contact information for the IT Security Coordinator or designate as well as a secondary point of contact,
  • establish a procedure for notifying the appropriate operational personnel, managers and all affected parties, keeping contact lists up to date. (e.g., The IT Security Coordinator, the Departmental Security Officer, the Chief Information Officer, business or system managers),
  • notify the appropriate law enforcement agency if the incident appears to be criminal and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service if the incident has national security implications.

Where required, PSEPC will assist departments in determining the nature of the incident. Legal advisors should be consulted where there is suspicion of criminal activity.

In the event that the established primary means of communications is not available, departments should establish an alternative means to communicate incident related information.

18.5 Recovery

Before reconnecting or restoring services, departments must ensure that all malicious software has been removed and that there is no potential for recurrence or spread.

Departments must restore essential capabilities within the time constraints and the availability requirements specified in the departmental Business Continuity Plan.

To be able to recover information, departments must

  • back up data regularly
  • test backups regularly to ensure that they can be used for recovery
  • back up all software and configuration data
  • facilitate the restoration of data and services by allowing systems to undo operations and return to an earlier state (e.g., rollback services)
  • test restoration procedures regularly to ensure that they are effective and that they can be completed within the time allotted for recovery
  • determine retention periods for essential business information and archived backups, and
  • document, in a memorandum of understanding or other agreement, all arrangements for off-site backup (in case the off-site backup is with another party).

Note that system recovery should be conducted in a manner that preserves the integrity of evidence, in the event of a criminal investigation of a security breach, for example.

Departments may seek support and advice for this process from PSEPC.

18.6 Post-Incident Analysis

For every severe or major IT security incident that occurs, departments must perform a post-incident analysis which summarizes the impact of the incident, including cost, and identifies

  • security deficiencies,
  • measures to prevent a similar incident,
  • measures to reduce the impact of a recurrence, and
  • improvements to incident-handling procedures.

When requested by PSEPC, departments must share the lessons they learn from their post-incident analysis. By sharing such information across the government, departments can learn from the analyses of other departments and lead agencies.

Departments should periodically analyze their own security incident statistics to identify recurring problems or patterns of attack and to estimate the overall cost of incidents with a view to improving service delivery.


For enquiries regarding this policy instrument, please contact the Security and Identity Management Division.

Appendix A - Related Legislation, Policies and Standards

Related Legislation:

  • Access to Information Act
  • Canada Evidence Act
  • Canada Labour Code
  • Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act
  • Charter of Rights and Freedoms
  • Criminal Code
  • Criminal Records Act
  • Defence Production Act
  • Emergency Preparedness Act
  • Financial Administration Act
  • Interpretation Act
  • National Archives of Canada Act
  • National Defence Act
  • Security of Information Act
  • Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act
  • Privacy Act
  • Public Service Employment Act
  • Public Service Staff Relations Act
  • Queen's Regulations and Orders
  • Young Offender's Act
  • Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act
  • Privacy Act
  • Statistics Act

Related Treasury Board of Canada Policies:

  • Access to Information
  • Active Monitoring
  • Common Services
  • Communications
  • Electronic Authorization and Authentication
  • Enhanced Management Framework
  • Government Security
  • Internal Audit
  • Management of Government Information
  • Management of Information Technology
  • Policy, Guidelines and Standards for Public Key Infrastructure Management
  • Privacy and Data Protection
  • Privacy Impact Assessment

Other related standards may be found on the Treasury Board Web site.

Appendix B - Glossary

unauthorized disclosure, destruction, removal, modification, interruption or use of assets. [GSP]
Critical asset
assets supporting a critical service. [GSP]
Critical service
service whose compromise in terms of availability or integrity would result in a high degree of injury to the health, safety, security or economic well-being of Canadians, or to the efficient functioning of the Government of Canada. [GSP]
Government information
information created, received, used, and maintained regardless of physical form, and information prepared for or produced by the Government of Canada and deemed to be under its control in the conduct of government activities or in pursuance of legal obligations. [MGIP]
Graduated safeguards
A set of increasingly secure safeguards that respectively reduce risk.
a type of IT security incident involving unauthorized access to, or activity on, a system or network.
Intrusion Detection System (IDS)
software that looks for suspicious activity and alerts administrators. [NIST]
Information Technology (IT) Security
safeguards to preserve the confidentiality, integrity, availability, intended use and value of electronically stored, processed or transmitted information. [GSP]
IT Security incident
any unexpected or unwanted event that might cause a compromise of business activities or information security. [ISO 17799]
IT Security Zones
a networking environment with a well-defined boundary, a security authority and a standard level of susceptibility to network threats. [ITS Zones]
Patch management
a component of change management, involving the acquiring, testing, and installing of software fixes on an administered IT system.
Risk management
a systematic approach to setting the best course of action under uncertainty by identifying, assessing, understanding, acting on and communicating risk issues. [IRMF]
Security risk management
a component of an overall risk management process involving the organization and coordination of activities and processes for controlling security risk.
a collection of one or more systems that perform a useful function in support of business direction.
Software integrity
the process of developing software with minimal vulnerabilities.
A set of elements such as personnel, physical, environment, safeguards, technology, etc. that are combined together to fulfill a specified purpose or mission. [MG-03]
an inadequacy related to security that could permit a threat to cause injury. [GSP]
Vulnerability assessment
a determination of the existence of system vulnerabilities.

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the President of the Treasury Board, 2017,
ISBN: 978-0-660-09871-5

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