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France 'particularly fertile ground' for cyber attacks, says security firm

Claire Williams / France 24
3 min

"There is no such thing as perfect security." The take-home message from a report on the latest cyber threats by world leading internet security firm, FireEye, is hardly reassuring.


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FireEye's CEO Dave DeWalt was in Paris this week to discuss the release of their annual cyber threat report. The authors of the report, entitled ‘Mandiant M-Trends: The View From the Front Lines’, say they are playing a game of cat and mouse with cyber attackers: each time security firms build new defences, the attackers change tactics.

France, says DeWalt, is a technology-friendly place with relatively loose controls on site access but strict rules on privacy. That concoction has made the country a “particularly fertile ground” for cyber wars between attackers and security firms.

France’s internet police recorded 19,000 cyberattacks in the week following the terrorist attacks in Paris last January. Many were minor denial-of-service attacks but that is no cause for comfort, says DeWalt.

"What's most alarming to me when I see it is the ability to bring 19,000 businesses down for hours and days with a highly unsophisticated cyber crime group or cyber terrorism group. A more sophisticated group with access to more sophisticated cyber weaponry could do even more damage.”


Unfortunately, attackers are getting better at camouflaging and covering up their tracks and attribution is becoming more difficult as threat actors increasingly share, copy and buy each other’s tools.

DeWalt warns of a black cyber market where “terrorist cells can now purchase online much more sophisticated types of weaponry in cyber space. It only takes motivation and money now for the attackers to be able to purchase these types of techniques.”


On the bright side, organisations are getting faster at finding attackers who have breached their systems. In 2014, attacks were detected after an average of 205 days, down from 243 in 2012. One firm, however, had been breached for eight years unknowingly.

The M-Trends report, however, found that firms are getting worse at detecting the “next generation of cyber attacks” on their own and increasingly need help from outside security professionals.

But such claims should come as no surprise, for if firms were able to detect all attacks on their own, security professionals like FireEye would have trouble finding business.


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