Defence secretary says France will take an offensive cybersecurity strategy

23 Jan 2019

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At a global conference in Lille, Florence Parly said the French government will use its cybersecurity tools in the same way as traditional weapons.

In cybersecurity, the growing prevalence of nation state attacks is a cause for concern among many governments. Cyberwarfare is considered as another conflict scenario, so administrations are responding as such with their own strategies and plans.

Strong words from French defence chief

According to The Register, French defence secretary Florence Parly said that the country would use its “cyber arms as all other traditional weapons … to respond and attack”.

Speaking at the Forum International de la Cybersécurité (FIC) in the French town of Lille, Parly said: “Cyberwar has begun.” She added: “The cyberweapon is not only for our enemies. No. It’s also, in France, a tool to defend ourselves. To respond and attack.”

This is notable coming from a NATO and EU member state, as it clears the path for offensive cybersecurity techniques, as opposed to what has previously been a policy of active defence.

She also revealed that the ministry of defence in France has established a military bug bounty programme, saying: “When I talk about trust, it goes very far. A partnership has been done between [France’s military] cyber command and the start-ups. That is called Yes We Hack.” According to Parly, the first bug bounty will be announced at the end of February.

Addressing the FIC, Parly noted that France is aiming to engage with SMEs in the country to create innovative national cybersecurity solutions. She also called for more cooperation between partnerships and collaboration between European allies around cyberthreats because cyberwarfare “has no border”.

An offensive cybersecurity strategy

Fifth Domain reported that Parly stressed the right for the country to retaliate against attacks from other states. “In case of a cyberattack against our forces, we reserve the right to retaliate, in a legal framework, with the means and at the moment of our choosing,” Parly said. “We also reserve the right, whoever the attacker is, to neutralise the effects and the digital means employed.”

She added that the military programme would be using earmarked funding to hire 1,000 cybersecurity specialists between now and 2025, noting that those deployed on foreign operations would benefit from the same protections as regular military staff.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects