Cyberattacks surge in France as Merkel revisits data retention argument

15 Jan 2015

Thousands of separate cyberattacks have hit French websites since 20 people died last week in a Parisian terror attack.

Arnaud Coustilliere, head of cyberdefence for the French military, claims 19,000 cyberattacks have hit French sites in recent days, with none causing severe damage.

As reported by AP, Coustilliere thinks some were carried out by well-known Islamic hacker groups, with minor denial of service attacks common.

“According to Arbor Networks,” reported AP, “in the past 24 hours alone, France has been the target of 1,070 denial of service attacks. That’s about a quarter as many as the United States, but the U.S. hosts 30 times as many websites.”

German Chancellor seeks new EU data-retention rules

At the same time, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is looking for new EU rules, sooner rather than later, on data retention in what the BBC calls “help to fight against terrorism”.

Merkel said German regional interior ministers had agreed on the need for a legal “minimum period” of data retention, so suspects’ data records could be accessed in police investigations.

“We should exert pressure so that the European Commission’s redrafted EU directive, as promised, is presented speedily, so that subsequently it can be adopted as German law, too,” Merkel said.

Merkel’s party leader Thomas Oppermann seems to agree, warning against “hasty action” on data retention, saying the lessons of the Paris attacks must first be considered carefully.

Hardly a minority

But that doesn’t seem to be the will of many a world leader. The entire EU political sphere is a bit lost amid the Paris attacks.

On Monday, UK Prime Minister David Cameron said that if elected in the next UK general elections, he would ban encrypted online communications tools that could be used by terrorists unless intelligence agencies were given increased access.

As reported yesterday, the European Commission has actually found that strong privacy and security tools are essential for today’s mobile consumer.

Since then, Cameron has gone further, planning to urge US President Barack Obama to put pressure on US internet firms like Twitter and Facebook to co-operate with UK intelligence agencies as they seek to track online activities of Islamist extremists.

Growing wave

The European Court of Justice concluded last summer that the EU Data Retention Directive was “a particularly serious interference with fundamental rights”, forcing states within the EU to re-evaluate their national laws on data retention. Not all, though, have taken the hint.

And yesterday in the US, Obama encouraged the private sector to share information about cyber threats with the state in the wake of the hack on Sony Pictures Entertainment. This, in truth, is more to do with actual cyberattacks in the first instance, however, it’s a growing number of political heavyweights looking to increase surveillance and government data collation, which means it may only be a matter of time before they do so.

Big brother surveillance image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic