France to boost cyberdefence after hospital malware attacks

PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron unveiled a plan to better arm public facilities and private companies against cybercriminals following ransomware attacks at two hospitals this month and an upsurge of similar cyber assaults in France.

The attacks at the hospitals in Dax and Villefranche-sur-Saone prompted the transfer of some patients to other facilities as the French health care system is under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic.

Macron discussed the attacks with officials and workers from both hospitals, saying the incident “shows how the threat is very serious, sometimes vital”.

“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 “destabilise” countries, he added.

Macron referred to a massive hack of United States (US) federal agencies last year and to the stealing of vaccine documents from the European Medicine Agency in November.

He stressed the need for international cooperation among police and criminal justice agencies after Ukrainian authorities said they had crippled a ransomware gang known as Egregor earlier this month following a joint action by the US, France and Ukraine.

Macron’s office said the government will earmark about EUR500 million to help boost cyberdefence systems in the public and private sector.

Cables plugged into a device by Cyber Test Systems at the Cybersecurity Conference in Lille, northern France. PHOTO: AP