MS Risk Blog

French Military to Boost Defences Against Cyber Attacks

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The French defense minister announced this month that France is no less vulnerable than the United States to cyber attacks from foreign countries, adding hat the military will boost its resources in order to defend against them.

During an interview with French weekly Le Journal du Dimanche, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian stated that there is a real risk of cyber attacks on French civil infrastructure such as water, electricity, telecommunications and transport as well as against French democracy and the media. The statement comes as US intelligence agencies released a report indicating that Russian President Vladimir Putin had directed a cyber campaign to help Republican Donald Trump’s electoral chances by discrediting Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential campaign. When asked whether France was immune from such attacks, Le Drian stated “no, of course not, we should not be naïve.” He went on to say that if the US election had indeed been manipulated, it would be an unbearable interference, as targeting a country’s electoral means attacking its democratic foundations and its sovereignty.

France has been affected by cyber attacks as in April 2015, hackers knocked French TV station TV5Monde off the air. French judicial sources later disclosed that Russian hackers linked to the Kremlin could have been behind the attack. France has now said that in 2016, it was the subject of 24,000 cyber attacks against defense targets and according to Le Drian, such attacks were doubling every year, noting that thousands of external attacks had been blocked, including attempts at disrupting France’s drone systems.

France will hold presidential elections in April – May. Leading conservative challenger Francois Fillon has stated that he wants to improve relations with Russia. He has in the past been praised by the Russian leader. Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen also favours closer relations with Russia. However French-Russian relations have been strained by Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014 and over Russia’s role in the war in Syria. Furthermore, outgoing Socialist President Francois Hollande has cancelled the sale of warships to Russia. He also played a key role in imposing sanctions on Russia over Crimea.