France prepares to fight future cyber wars 2008-06-19 21:49:42   Print

    PARIS, June 19 (Xinhua) -- By expanding the range of weapons arsenal in terms of computer warfare, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who this week announced major military reforms involving an in-depth change in strategic priorities, is gradually preparing France for the fights of future, according to observers.

    Increasingly becoming numerous, more complex and interconnected, digital networks are nowadays being used to convey vital information from the battlefield to military command headquarters, said one French defense analyst.

    "Nevertheless, they are most often designed to use a similar architecture to that of the Internet and they share more or less the same vulnerabilities, offering a target of choice for attackers," said the analyst, adding that protecting them had become paramount.

    "In the IT field, more than in any other area, in order to defend against attacks, it will be necessary to know how to attack ourselves," said the White Paper on Defense and National Security which was published on Tuesday, by paraphrasing a famous saying.

    The potential for aggression in this domain is growing by the day, said a senior military officer, adding: "the best defense is attack."

    The White Paper, which has been quickly baptized as the "bible" of strategic priorities for France for the next 15 years, calls for a "proportional response to the attack, aimed primarily at reducing the operational capabilities of the adversary" in case of an aggression against military networks.

    "The two main modes of action used in this domain include the penetration of computer servers by viruses, Trojans and dozens of other variants used by hackers or the neutralization of these servers through a sudden and massive influx of data," said one computer expert.

    In outlining his 15-year reform agenda, President Sarkozy charged the General Staff of the armed forces and the unspecified "specialized units" with the task of overseeing the country's preparedness in this field.

    Their first major task, according to the head of state, will be to come with a clearly defined "employment scope and specialized tools, weapons or digital laboratories to handle each type of attack."

    Speaking shortly after the announcement of the new reforms, Bernard Carayon, a ruling party lawmaker and a champion of economic intelligence, said: the "computer war" is just but another stage "of war in human history, after the conventional war in which men confronted fellow men."

    Therefore, to the offensive dimension, the authorities have found it necessary to come up with a defensive dimension through the creation of the Agency for the Safety Information Systems, which will replace the very discreet Central Directorate for Security of Information Systems.

    In his speech on Tuesday, Sarkozy promised to strengthen the future body through the provision of "a significant number of staff and resources" in order to ensure that it will fulfill its mandate.

    France has not been spared by the specter of "cyber-attacks," said one expert, noting that "it was one of several Western nations that came under a highly publicized attack at the beginning of 2007."

    "It's not impossible to imagine a scenario where the whole country is plunged into a total paralysis," said the expert, who noted that "the risk factor is increasingly by the day fuelled by the emergence of new attack methods."

    France is not alone to be deeply worried about the issue of crippling cyber attacks. In mid-May, the Atlantic Alliance, which brings together dozens of Northern America, Western and Eastern European countries, launched what has come to be known as the "NATO Excellence Center for Cybernetics Defense" in Tallinn, Estonia.

    The choice of the Estonian capital of Tallinn as the home of the body was not by any chance, as the tiny country had on April 27, 2007 turned into the first country in the world to fall victim to a massive internet attack that crippled government, bank and media networks. 

Editor: An Lu
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