As in many developed nations around the world, cybersecurity has really come into the spotlight in France in recent years. This country has always strived to be a pioneer and leading light in fields of politics, social progression, technology, and innovation, and continues to make great efforts to set an example for other nations to follow. This is clear to see in France’s recent attempts to bolster cybersecurity measures and raise awareness about the dangers of both small- and large-scale cyber-attacks [1].

It became clear to the French authorities and government that stronger focus needed to be placed on cybersecurity in the wake of the high-profile cyber-attack during the Paris G20 Summit back in early 2011 [2]. This event triggered the fortification of cybersecurity systems throughout the country, with more resources assigned to the ANSSI (Agence nationale de la sécurité des systèmes d’information) [3] and various projects and programs launched to protect French businesses, political institutions, and the general public from future attacks.

Cybersecurity institutions of France

The main institution for cybersecurity in France is the aforementioned ANSSI. The ANSSI was formed in 2008, with the French “White Paper on Defense and National Security” stating that cyber-attacks had become one of the biggest threats to the nation and its people.

With the founding of this cybersecurity institution and the dedication of resources to proactive cybersecurity efforts, France acknowledged that the reliance on and widespread use of technology in modern society called for an updated, adapted approach to national security measures [4].

The ANSSI is attached to the Secretary General for National Defense and is under the authority of the French Prime Minister. Its primary missions are to detect cyber-attacks, ideally before they happen, and work to prevent them or limit their capacities.

Another recent addition to France’s cybersecurity institutions is the COMCYBER (Commandement de la cyberdéfense). Created in 2017 and attached to the country’s Ministry of the Armed Forces, COMCYBER is focused on developing France’s cyber capacities in both defensive and offensive forms [5].

As one of the world’s richest countries and leading global powers, as well as one of the main figureheads of the European Union, France has a duty, obligation, and necessity to take action against cyber-attacks.

The significance of cybersecurity in France has only become greater in recent years, especially as tensions have risen in the country due to recent terrorist attacks. This has led to the ANSSI playing a larger role in national defense and the country welcoming new cybersecurity companies and organizations like Orange Cybersecurité [6].

Cyber-attack statistics in France

Cyber-attacks have become increasingly common in France in recent years, as in many other countries around the globe.

A survey in 2016 revealed that 55% of French businesses declared that they had been the victim of some kind of cyber-attack, with small to medium-sized businesses being the most common targets [7].

Statistics also show that close to 14 million people in France are victims of cyber-attacks per year, leading to costs of over 2.8 billion euros for the French economy. The most common forms of cyber-attack in France involve bank card fraud and password theft, with a large percentage of attacks originating from external sources.

The situation has become so dramatic that, at the beginning of 2019, France’s Secretary of Defence, Florence Parly, announced that “Cyber war has begun” and revealed that France’s military forces would be making use of ‘cyber arms’ in the same way as normal weapons [8].

Parly’s announcement was big news not just in France, but for the entire world, as it was one of the first cases of a leading, wealthy nation – a significant member of both NATO and the EU – announcing the use of offensive cyber capacities to not just defend the nation but to strike back at its enemies.

France, along with the European Union, has tightened its laws on cyber criminality in recent years. Possible punishments include imprisonment for terms ranging from two to seven years, as well as fines that can reach as high as 100,000 euros [9]. Statistics show, however, that the vast majority of cases never go to court or result in arrests, as is true in many other countries.

Educating society

As well as bolstering cybersecurity through the establishment and strengthening of forces like ANSSI and COMCYBER, France is making strong efforts in order to educate its people on the potential dangers they face when making use of the internet at home and work each day.

A big aim of the ‘French Cybersecurity Strategy’ laid out by the ANSSI is to raise citizens’ awareness of cybersecurity issues during the education process”.

The ANSSI is therefore constantly looking at new and effective ways to help people not only learn about the dangers the internet can pose, but also discover the different ways they can stay safe online [10].

The ‘European cybersecurity month’ has been an annual event throughout the European Union for several years now, and France has made big efforts to honor this occasion. Each October, various initiatives are organized to build up awareness of cybersecurity threats for both individuals and businesses in the country.

Leading French figures like ministers and various associations around the country are encouraged to take part in this month, with social media programs also organized include hashtags on Twitter and Facebook people can share to spread the word about the dangers of cyberspace.

As well as this, ANSSI has also established a training center under the name CFSSI (Centre de formation à la sécurité des systèmes d’information) which offers various courses and qualifications in computer security. Part of this service includes the “SecNum Académie,” which is a free online training tool people can use to learn all about cybersecurity in the workspace.

Another brand of the CFSSI is the “SecNum Edu,” which offers students and workers training in various aspects of cybersecurity in collaboration with high education institutions around the country. This means that anyone in France who wants to learn more about staying safe online has the necessary tools and services available to them [11].

Most popular cybersecurity tools in France

France is a highly developed country that has played a key role in the development of the global tech industry and remains at the forefront of the modern, connected world. Statistics from INSEE (Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques) show that over 90% of French internet users make use of some form of protective software or system to stay safe online, with the most commonly chosen option being antivirus software.

However, statistics also show that France has some of the lowest rates of VPN usage when compared to many other major nations all over the globe [12].

This is despite the fact that France has some excellent VPN options to choose from. Not only that, but since the French government is part of the 9 Eyes alliance, it’s vital for French internet users to safeguard their privacy and encrypt their internet connections via the use of VPNs in order to stay safe online.

Resources used:

  1. http://cybersecurity.bsa.org/assets/PDFs/country_reports/cs_france.pdf
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyberattack_during_the_Paris_G20_Summit
  3. https://web.archive.org/web/20130313131706/http://www.ssi.gouv.fr/en/the-anssi/mission/
  4. https://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/french-foreign-policy/defence-security/cyber-security/
  5. https://www.enisa.europa.eu/topics/national-cyber-security-strategies/ncss-map/strategies/information-systems-de
  6. http://jactiv.ouest-france.fr/job-formation/se-former/formation-cybersecurite-unique-france-vient-douvrir-80232
  7. https://www.ouest-france.fr/high-tech/la-cybercriminalite-en-hausse-en-france-et-dans-le-monde-4716773
  8. https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/01/22/france_cyber_war/
  9. https://www.village-justice.com/articles/Cybercriminalite-reponse-penale-Union,14872.html
  10. https://www.ssi.gouv.fr/en/cybersecurity-in-france/formations/
  11. https://www.mastersportal.com/study-options/268599581/it-security-france.html
  12. https://www.vpnmentor.com/blog/vpn-use-data-privacy-stats/