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Hackers likely to target Canadian parties, says Conservative campaign chair





There is a very real risk of Canada’s political parties being hacked in the lead-up to next year’s federal election, says the campaign manager for one of the country’s largest political parties.

“I am worried about the hacking of political parties,” Conservative campaign manager Hamish Marshall told an Ottawa audience Monday night.

“I think we’ve seen it happen in the United States. We saw it happen in France. I think that it’s going to happen here and I think that political parties who have strained budgets that they want to spend on lots of other, much more exciting and sexy things — spending a whole lot of money on cyber security is a difficult pitch in those budget meetings.”

Marshall said those involved in federal politics also have to be wary of people who might try to engage with them online before attempting extortion — something that allegedly happened to Conservative MP Tony Clement.

“Now you can create fake accounts and create online relationships with anyone involved in the political process,” he told the discussion organized by the Ottawa-based group thePanel.

Marshall’s comments come after Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan warned that Russia is likely to target Canadian voters with fake news and cyberattacks during next year’s federal election.

Parties still aren’t subject to privacy laws

The comments also come as calls are mounting for Canada’s political parties to be made subject to federal privacy law. Unlike private companies and government departments, political parties are not subject to any privacy law — despite the fact that they have been accumulating information about millions of Canadian voters.

And because they’re not subject to privacy laws, political parties aren’t required by law to inform the people in their databases when their information is breached.

At a recent parliamentary committee hearing, the New Democratic Party called on the federal government to bring political parties under privacy law. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party has opposed the idea, saying it could deter volunteers.

The Conservative Party has adopted a neutral stance, saying it would be guided by Parliament.

Marlene Floyd, national director of corporate affairs for Microsoft, said there is a very real threat of cyberattacks on Canadian democracy.

“This is real,” she said. “Canada is vulnerable and I think we’re naive if we think we’re not.”

Floyd said Microsoft has been working with companies, platforms and lawmakers around the world on problems such as how to create more consistent standards for cyber security. She said Microsoft is working with the FBI in the U.S. to call out state actors attacking democratic institutions and processes — and brought down three websites in the U.S. that were spoofing in the lead-up to the U.S. midterms.

“What they are trying to do with disinformation is they are really trying to find a schism that is pre-existing in society and then to amplify it,” she said.

Fen Hampson, director of the global security and politics program at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, said the last few years have seen major cyberattacks on electoral systems in both advanced and transitional democracies.

An Orwellian future for democracy?

“We’re seeing more of it. We’re seeing it on a bigger scale,” he said. “We’re also seeing that they’re getting pretty sophisticated in terms of adapting to efforts to shut them down.”

Hampson said those attacks and the scandal surrounding Cambridge Analytica — a political consultancy firm which used data from tens of millions of Facebook users to profile voters — amount to just the tip of the iceberg.

“That problem of AI and artificial intelligence and manipulation of data, the political purposes to which that can be put … will make the world of George Orwell’s 1984 look like a child’s picnic,” he said.

Hampson said the decision made at the G7 meeting in Charlevoix in June to create ‘rapid reaction’ capacity to respond to cyberattacks is a start. However, he said, legislation is needed to bring political parties under privacy law and countries have to begin working together.

“We can’t do it on our own.”

Elizabeth Thompson can be reached at


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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla





Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm





Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover





KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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