​France to invest €1bn euros to update cyber defences

February 08, 2014 - 2:41:42 am
PARIS: France unveiled plans yesterday to bolster long-neglected defences against cyber attacks, with ¤1bn ($1.36bn) of investment foreseen to bring the country’s technology up to speed with Nato partners.

Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian presented measures including roll-outs of secure telephones, encryption technology and network surveillance to harden sensitive computer systems now exposed to hacking and espionage.

The spending aims to build up France’s ability to fend off mounting cyber attacks and bolster surveillance after years of neglect. The issue has taken on more urgency in the wake of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s disclosures about US cyber surveillance practices.

“This is a priority for the defence ministry because our operational capacity, our ability to conduct operations, can be gravely threatened by cyber threats,” Le Drian said. “I’m referring to weapons systems, command and control, information and the systems that link them together.”

Most of the money will go toward shoring up security at the defence ministry and its strategic partners, which were targeted by some 800 cyber attacks in 2013 amid unprecedented belt-tightening for the military.  

But funds will also go to building up web monitoring and personal data collection. Parliament passed a law in December empowering the state to request data from telecoms operators and web providers drawing criticism from web and privacy activists.    

“France has only woken up to these risks very recently,” said Jean-Francois Bezel, president of the IT consultancy Safaris and a specialist in cyber security. “The main thing today is to protect companies that are crucial to the state’s functioning, as well as government and banks, and to promote best practices in security.”