Following a surge in cyber-attacks in the country, French President Emmanuel Macron has unveiled a plan to protect public facilities and private companies against cybercriminals. According to the National Cybersecurity Agency of France (ANSSI), ransomware attacks surged 255% in 2020 compared to 2019. The health care sector, the education system, local authorities and digital service providers have been particularly affected, ANSSI noted.
"We are learning about these new attacks, some coming from states as part of new conflicts between nations, others coming from mafias," the French leader said during a videoconference. "Some attacks have criminal or lucrative motives; others are used to destabilize countries," he added.
While emphasizing the seriousness of the threat, Macron also called for international cooperation amongst police and criminal justice agencies, as with ransomware program Egregor, which was dismantled in Ukraine early in February following joint action by the US, France and Ukraine. Macron's office also informed that the government would set away 500 million euros to boost cyber defence systems.
During ransomware attacks, cybercriminals infect computers or systems with viruses that scramble and lock data which are not released until the users pay a ransom. This month, two hospitals in Dax and Villefranche-sur-Saone were attacked, which led to the transfer of some patients to other facilities, postponing surgeries, complete shut-down of the internet service and phones, leading to use of pen and paper for record-keeping. However, patient safety was preserved. The French cybersecurity agency is investigating the attacks.
ANSSI informed that an attack targeted a software distributed by the French company Centron resulting in the breach of several French entities that they suspect bears similarities with the previous campaigns by the Russian military hacking group called Sandworm, which allegedly caused damage worth $10 billion globally.