Get informed on the top stories of the day in one quick scan

Get informed on the top stories of the day in one quick scan

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Canada's cyber spies taking down sites as battle against COVID-19 fraud begins

As the fight continues to slow the spread of COVID-19, Canada's foreign signals intelligence agency is waging war against another type of virus: disinformation.

A number of fraudulent sites that spoofed the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and, most recently, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) have already been taken down by the Communications Security Establishment (CSE).

According to the RCMP, which is tracking reported scams, in at least one case fraudsters posed as PHAC and told Canadians they had tested positive for COVID-19, then asked for credit card information for a prescription. Criminals are also mimicking the federal government to send out coronavirus-themed phishing emails and malicious attachments, they said.

Scott Jones, head of the CSE's Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, said criminals and state actors will try to exploit the global anxiety over the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"I've certainly seen that in some of these COVID spear-phishing attempts — it's to really tug on your heartstrings with somebody who had a death in the family, et cetera," he said. "They don't operate by the same ethics that the rest of us do."

Swindlers have also tried to pitch miracle cures to treat or prevent coronavirus, while some private companies are offering faster testing when in fact only hospitals can perform the tests. In at least one case reported to the RCMP, criminals tried to sell a fake list of all the infected people in a neighbourhood. Read more on this story here.

Take your places

Trisnadi/Associated Press

(Trisnadi/The Associated Press)

In this photo taken March 19, people stand in designated areas on the floor of an elevator as a social distancing effort to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus at a shopping mall in Surabaya, Indonesia.

In brief

The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) say they won't send athletes to compete at the Tokyo Olympics — set to begin July 24 — if they go ahead as scheduled. Backed by the Athletes' Commissions, National Sport Organizations and the Government of Canada, the COC and CPC said yesterday they "made the difficult decision to not send Canadian teams to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the summer of 2020." The COC and CPC want the International Olympic Committee to postpone the Games for a year, citing the safety of athletes and the general public amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more on this story here.

Canadian soldiers, sailors and aircrew deployed overseas will, for the time being, rely on allies and host nations for access to COVID-19 testing kits, the Defence Department said. An order of 2,000 of the critical health tests is expected to arrive at the military's central medical equipment depot this week. The country's top military commander said the Canadian Forces surgeon general is comfortable with the current arrangements and health plans for both deployed units and those at home. "Every Canadian unit deployed overseas has Canadian medical or local medical access," Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of the defence staff, told CBC News. Read more on this story here. Looking to find out if your business qualifies for the federal government's COVID-19 wage subsidy? There is new information available to business owners on the federal government's proposed temporary wage subsidy that is part of the economic response plan to counter Canadians' financial hardships due to the outbreak. The Canada Revenue Agency has now released a more detailed breakdown of who is eligible and how the subsidy will be implemented. Get more information here. No country has invested as heavily as the United States in the idea of itself as a land where freedom to pursue opportunity is paramount. But in a time of crisis, that creed can stray into the desperate territory of "every man for himself," writes Keith Boag. Some believe that the tough moral choices ahead will show that the United States is overdue for a radically different way of thinking about itself. Read more analysis here. Syrian aid worker Osama al-Hussein is one of the international aid workers bracing themselves for the arrival of the coronavirus among communities least equipped to deal with it — refugee camps. It's a hit that aid workers believe to be inevitable, with the potential to decimate refugee populations. Al-Hussein believes the virus is already present given the absence of testing, hidden among the respiratory illnesses medical workers already struggle to treat. Read more on this story from CBC's Margaret Evans. Now for some good news to start your Monday: Last week, Bailey Grose posted in a Prince George, B.C., community Facebook group about an idea she had to get people to paste hearts in their windows to start a community-wide scavenger hunt. The mother of two was looking for something for her girls to do while they are at home social distancing because of COVID-19. She asked people to cut, colour or paint hearts and hang them in their windows and then try to count as many as possible and post pictures to social media. In less than three days, she received photos of more than 700 hearts and the post had been shared by more than 1,100 people. "I am attempting to bring the community together without any social interaction," she told CBC. Read more here.

Front Burner: COVID-19, Hong Kong and a warning from the future

In the global fight against the spread of COVID-19, Hong Kong has been recognized for its ability to keep the number of cases low despite its proximity to China. Today on Front Burner, Shibani Mahtani, the Washington Post's Hong Kong and Southeast Asia bureau chief, talks to guest host Michelle Shephard about how they did it, and what preparations are underway now for a second wave of imported COVID-19 cases.

Today in history: March 23

1752: The Halifax Gazette, Canada's first newspaper, begins publishing weekly. It lasted until 1766 when it was suspended for criticizing the Stamp Act and was replaced by the Nova Scotia Gazette. 1949: Royal assent is given to the North America Bill, passed by the British Parliament, for the union of Canada and Newfoundland. It became Canada's 10th province eight days later. 1983: The first artificial-heart transplant patient dies. American doctor Barney Clark lived with the implant for 112 days. 1994: Wayne Gretzky of the Los Angeles Kings scores his 802nd career regular season goal, overtaking Gordie Howe as the greatest goal-scorer in NHL history. Gretzky retired after the 1998-99 season with 894 career regular season goals. 2018: Kaetlyn Osmond becomes the fourth Canadian to win the women's world figure skating championship, and the first since Karen Magnussen in 1973.