France aims at boosting cyberdefense

Photo: AP

French President Emmanuel Macron unveiled on Thursday a plan to boost cyberdefense across the country and better arm public facilities and private companies against cybercriminals following ransomware attacks at two hospitals this month, AP reported. The government will earmark about 500 million euros to help cyberdefense systems in the public and private sector.

The attacks in Dax and Villefranche-sur-Saone prompted the transfer of some patients to other facilities as the French health care system is under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic. Macron discussed the attacks with officials and workers from both hospitals, saying the incident “shows how the threat is very serious, sometimes vital." During ransomware attacks, cybercriminals infect computers or computer systems with viruses that scramble and lock data until the targeted users pay a ransom.

“We are learning about these new attacks, some coming from states as part of new conflicts between nations, others coming from mafias,” the French president said during a videoconference. Some attacks have “criminal” or “lucrative” motives, others are used to “destabilise” countries, he added. Macron referred to a massive hack of US federal agencies last year and to the stealing of vaccine documents from the European Medicine Agency (EMA) in November.

He stressed the need for international cooperation among police and criminal justice agencies after Ukrainian authorities confirmed a ransomware programme known as Egregor was dismantled in the country earlier this month following a joint action by the US, France and Ukraine.

The National Cybersecurity Agency of France (ANSSI) reported that ransomware attacks surged 255% in 2020 compared to the previous year. All sectors and geographical areas of the country were included, but the increase particularly concerns the health care sector, the education system, local authorities and digital service providers.

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