French Defense Secretary Says Country Is Willing To Fire First In Cyber Wars

from the only-good-things-can-come-of-this dept

Over the past few years, politicians and intelligence officials have floated the idea of hacking back. When not pushing the idea of treating cyber wars like declarations of actual war, these officials have seen nothing wrong with hacking back against cyberattackers or allowing private companies to do the same.

It may seem like there’s nothing wrong with a “best defense is a good offense” theory of deterrence, but it’s not that simple. First of all, attribution is often more difficult than these officials imagine. Hacking back against the wrong party is only going to escalate tensions. At worst, it could result in international incidents where those hacking back have broken laws in other countries. At best, it will just become another forever war countries throw money at — one that’s sure to result in expanded government power at the expense of the taxpayers, both in terms of tax dollars and civil liberties.

France has been scratching its itchy trigger finger for awhile now. Roughly a year ago, the government shot down a proposal giving private companies the right to retaliate against cyberattacks. It felt doing so would only lead to further “instability in cyberspace.” That assessment is likely correct. But the French government apparently only felt private hack backs would lead to instability. If the government did it, no such instability should occur… apparently.

As far as offensive actions are concerned, the [Strategic Review of Cyberdefense] may not want companies to unleash hack-backs after an online attack, but it does want to keep that option open for the French authorities.

Not sure how a government-run cyberattack would lead to greater stability, but there you have it. The French government is apparently so confident in its ability to carry out non-destabilizing cyberattacks that it’s not even going to wait around to get hacked first. Defense Secretary Florence Parly had this to say at a recent cybersecurity forum:

“The cyber weapon is not only for our enemies,” said France’s defence secretary this afternoon, speaking through a translator. “No. It’s also, in France, a tool to defend ourselves. To respond and attack.”

Her remarks will be seen as moving the debate about offensive cyber capabilities – not just so-called “active defence” but using infosec techniques as another weapon in the arsenal of state-on-state warfare – to a new level. Coming from a prominent NATO member and EU country, it could set the tone for future discussion of nation states’ offensive cyber doctrines.

If France is going to start a cyberwar, it’s not going to do it alone. Parly also called for “more cooperation and partnerships” from other European governments, suggesting their asses will also be on the line if France kicks off WWIII/CyberWar I with a misdirected cybersortie. While Parly is correct in her assessment that cyber threats are border-less, it seems a little audacious to suggest everyone else is obligated to bail you out if you take the lead in hacking forward.

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Comments on “French Defense Secretary Says Country Is Willing To Fire First In Cyber Wars”

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18 Comments
Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: French cyber war

Sorry, but the Right to be Forgotten has removed that notion from the communal knowledge of the entire world. They are so serious about that that they are pre-eminently requiring that their next surrenders be forgotten in advance. Therefore, you, nor I, nor anyone else will remember the word surrender in relation to France…ever.

Christenson says:

How to respond???

I see infosec (keeping secrets) as quite distinct from the basic question of whether I can trust my computer to do what it says it is doing and nothing else.

Keeping secrets is becoming really difficult, and I don’t think it can begin to be addressed without addressing the trust issue, and even then may be impossible.

The trust issue comes in two parts: trusting people (really can’t nerd harder, or close the door on all the migration that has happened the last half century), and trusting the computer itself.

Trusting the computer itself is possibly soluble by nerd harder. It will come at a price of simpler, less interdependent systems, and automatic or semi-automatic proofs. For example, I would like to know that my computer has only two connections to the internet: The web browser and the fileshare, that these are independent unless granted specific permissions, and the web browser is not writing to the permanent memory on my computer.

Those problems can potentially be fixed.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: How to respond???

Those problems can potentially be fixed.

Theoretically, yes. In practice… it gets very very difficult without mandatory independent code audits. In other words, open-source enforced by law.

(Please note that I’m not saying open-source principles necessarily should be enforced by law. Just that in my professional judgment as a software developer, without that, the technical difficulties you would have in ensuring that software does not do anything malicious, as you want to do, quickly become almost completely insurmountable.)

ECA (profile) says:

In the USA

Its always been against the law, unless they changed in the last few years..
But there is something to think about.
There is security, that requires the user to LET a small program to Run a verify WHO is connecting. There are a couple of other parts to this..
But IF the hacker knows HOW it works, or captures the Checker, they can see what is needed to FAKE what is needed to verify.

Another think, comes with a few tricks, like a honey pot(look it up) where it seems the person has gotten into the system. But its a trap to TRY and locate them, they can wonder around and do just about anything..but it only Seems that way.

You can also setup a verification, that only Fits on the REQUIRED system to work. A small little program is set inthe computer that allows you to connect..

There are many tricks that can be done..but your BIGGEST defense, seems to be the human Watching the servers.
Its the idea that transferring 1 Tarabyte of data files IS A LONG PROCESS.
Having a REAL person there as Sysop/admin you can watch and ASK the person to ID themselves, or just Disco the person..

But,
There is 1 things I keep saying and that is…IMPORTANT DATA is not allowed a direct connection to the INTERNET… you would need to signin on the internet connection, then SIGNIN to another system inside…And each system has its own verification..

So Which will it be..
Pay a corp to do this..
Hire a person Permanent..that does all this and keeps things up to date.
Believing your IT dept when it tells you WE NEED BETTER..
Do it yourself, and Fail, because you are not Old hat, or upto date on current protection.

I have a friend with an interesting job…he has been setup to Play games and do anything he wants, but a side computer sits and watches other machines around the country…and if they ever turn off, or sound an alarm he is to call the cops..

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: In the USA

The real secret is using non standard code and operating systems that are built into every piece of hardware yet never discussed. If you can bypass normal systems, you can work for decades in the latest systems without ever being detected. Every Microsd card has a tiny computer on it that is more powerful than what sent us to the moon.

r_rolo1 (profile) says:

About shooting first ...

Well , if preemptive hacking is something that France both thinks it is legal and advisable and something that should be done …

Doesn’t that mean that hackers would be justified in preemtive hacking everything French? I mean, apparently ( according to some nutjobs atleast ) preemptive hacking is legal and there is ample proof that France intends to hack them … 😉

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