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International cyber policy

Blue digital maple leaf.

Canada engages internationally to promote and protect a free, open and secure cyberspace. This supports Canada’s economic prosperity, online and offline security, and helps advance Canadian values.

To protect Canadians and promote a rules-based international order in cyberspace, Global Affairs Canada (GAC) works with:

  • other government departments
  • international allies
  • the private sector
  • non-governmental partners

GAC supports Canada’s National Cyber Security Strategy (NCSS) by working with its international partners to advance Canadian interests in cyberspace. This includes:

  • advocating for an open, free, and secure internet
  • enhancing international cooperation to carry out norms of responsible State behaviour in cyberspace and combat cybercrime
  • working with partners and allies to deter and respond to malicious cyber activity

While there is work left to do, GAC has completed many activities and milestones to support the NSSC. Those achievements are identified by the National Cyber Security Action Plan (PDF), including:

  • the Launch of the Government of Canada International Cyber Engagement Working Group in 2018
  • the creation of a cyber-unit at GAC in 2018
  • the development of a policy for public attribution of malicious cyber activity by States in 2019

On this page

International cyber security overview

A free, open, and secure cyberspace is critical to Canada’s economy, social activity, democracy and national security. Canada faces cyber security risks from both state and non-state actors. Protecting Canada’s and Canadian’s cyber infrastructure from malicious actors is a serious challenge and never-ending task. Canada works with allies and partners to improve cyber security at home and counter threats from abroad. This includes identifying cyber threats or vulnerabilities and developing capabilities to respond to a range of cyber incidents.

Internationally, Canada has supported the development and application of rules of the road for State behaviour in cyberspace. These are found in the conclusions of past United Nations (UN) Groups of Governmental Experts (UN GGEs) on Developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security. The 2013 (PDF) and 2015 (PDF) UN GGE reports recognized the applicability of international law. The 2015 report also outlined voluntary norms for state behaviour in cyberspace. These have been unanimously agreed upon by the United Nations General Assembly (PDF).

Canada is working to support the implementation of these norms at home and abroad. This includes calling States to account for malicious activity that counters the norms for responsible state behaviour in cyberspace.

Canada released its Statement on International Law applicable in cyberspace in April 2022 to outline our current view on key aspects of international law applicable in cyberspace and explain how these apply.

In addition to releasing our own statement, Canada strongly advocates for capacity building on the application of international law in cyberspace. Canada supports efforts to help other States develop their capacity to publish their own submissions on how they see international law applying in cyberspace.

Canada’s UN cyber involvement

Six people standing in front of 4 banners.

Global Affairs Canada’s Dan McBryde with Canada’s funded Latin American Women in Cyber Security fellows.

Canada is actively involved in promoting a safe, secure, and open cyberspace. We work in multilateral forums to build a common understanding of the rules of responsible state behaviour in cyberspace as outlined in the 2015 endorsed GGE norms. Canada has proposed guidance to States on norms implementation and to address the gender aspects of cyber security in the ongoing UN Open Ended Working Group on Developments (OEWG). Canada’s submissions to this process include:

Mindful of Canada’s Feminist Foreign Policy, GAC has taken specific steps to advance gender equality in cyber policy discussions and improve women’s meaningful participation in international discussions.

Canada promotes participation of women in international cyber security negotiations through the Women in International Security and Cyberspace Fellowship (WiC). Over 35 women participated in the WiC as experts and diplomats representing their government at UN OEWG negotiations. The WiC allowed gender balance for the first time in the history of a UN First Committee process.

Canada has previously engaged in the United Nations (UN) Groups of Governmental Experts (UN GGEs) on Developments in the field of information and telecommunications in the context of international security as a member of two of these groups (most recently in 2016-2017).


To promote and enforce stability in cyberspace, Canada works with a variety of organisations and partnerships including, but not limited to:

Capacity building

Internationally, Canada also supports capacity-building efforts to increase the resilience of States to malicious cyber activity. Since 2015, Canada has contributed over $13 million to cyber capacity-building projects around the world. Among other outcomes, these projects have helped 10 countries in the Americas develop their national cyber strategies. Thanks to Canada’s support, 17 Computer Security Incident Response Teams have been developed or improved throughout the Americas.

Confidence building measures

Confidence building measures (CBMs) are essential to building relationships and capabilities for improved cyber security. CBMs reduce the risk of conflict between States by using preventive measures for the management of crises between States in cyberspace. Canada is engaged in implementing confidence building measures internationally for cyber security through:

Multiple stakeholders have been engaged for confidence building measures including academia, non-governmental organizations, think tanks and the private sector. Canada understands the need for a multi-stakeholder approach to manage cyber security concerns. We have engaged with academics and non-governmental organizations as detailed above with gender and cyber research. Further, Canada was a leader in organizing a multi-stakeholder engagement series in December 2020 to allow non-State stakeholders to express their views on the OEWG process. This is all to support building a common understanding of the rules for responsible behaviour in cyberspace.

Malicious cyber activity response

Canada is stronger when working in cooperation with our partners and allies. GAC works with likeminded partners to hold States accountable for activity in cyberspace. By coordinating with partners and allies abroad, GAC is able to evaluate and respond to identified threats accurately. After a review of the evidence, Canada will attribute malicious cyber activities to the hostile States who perpetrate them. Canada will hold them to account under international law and agreed norms of State behaviour in cyberspace. Canada will continue to promote responsible state behaviour in cyberspace and call out those that act irresponsibly.


As a result of Russia's unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine, the Government of Canada has coordinated internally and with allies abroad, to facilitate civilian cyber capacity building to help Ukraine uphold its fundamental right to self-defence in cyber space.

Canada has also been actively engaged in the shaping of the Tallinn Mechanism since February 2023. The Mechanism is a multi-State, Foreign Ministries led initiative. Its intent is to serve as a focal point for Members’ civilian cyber capacity building support to Ukraine. The Mechanism intends to be separate and complementary to military cyber capacity-building efforts and civilian efforts on digital development. It is also meant to help integrate and coordinate with other related areas of multinational support to Ukraine and increase overall situational awareness of those efforts.


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