June 15, 2021

“Cybercrime has an impact on national security”

The year was marked, in France and abroad, by a series of ransomware attacks, malicious programs that block machines and demand the payment of a ransom. While acknowledging the seriousness of the phenomenon, the director of the National Agency for the Security of Information Systems (Anssi), which published its annual report on Thursday, June 10, said he was “Optimistic” on this file. However, he claims to be much more worried about state hackers, still very active on French territory.

See also our file: Ransomware attacks: the surge

How important is the ransomware threat to businesses?

We still do not know how to measure the economic impact of ransomware. At the level of large companies, regulated operators, it resists. On the other hand, at the level of ETI [entreprises de taille intermédiaire], SMEs [petites et moyennes entreprises], it is expensive, but we do not know how to measure it. As for attacks on hospitals or local communities, the problem is not economic, it is a problem of the functioning of society. Cybercrime has an impact on national security.

Several months after the attacks on hospitals, in Dax (Landes) and Villefranche-sur-Saône (Rhône), in particular, where are we? What measures have been taken?

Much depends on the quality of the backups. There was no ransom payment, so no decryption key. Villefranche got off to a good start. In others, it is more complicated. We have just added a hundred hospitals to the list of essential service operators [une catégorie d’organismes soumis à des obligations en termes de cybersécurité]. It is a very strong message. As part of the recovery plan, Anssi has a budget of 136 million euros to raise the level of safety of public actors. Thanks to this envelope, we can finance an audit of hospitals and local authorities, through private service providers.

The United States has just announced a series of measures against ransomware operators, and says it will be a priority for the Biden administration. Is France on the same wavelength?

Are we going to make American-style statements saying that it is equivalent to terrorism? I am not sure. The fear is always that the visible part hides the invisible, which remains almost more worrying. The issues of espionage and prepositioning [pour du sabotage potentiel] are absolutely major. We spend most of our time, not on ransomware, but on spy infrastructures that we discover by flashlight, every week. There is a global aggressiveness in the cyber space on the part of the large States, that is the meaning of the story.

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