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Cybersecurity needs explode as cyberthreats grow - ANSSI Director General

Vincent Strubel (X2000), Director General of the French Cybersecurity Agency (ANSSI), spoke at École Polytechnique, underlining the change in scale of cybercrime, the explosion in training and research needs in cyberdefense, and the role Ecole Polytechnique can play to fulfill them.
Table ronde avec Vincent Strubel, Théophile Rastoin(X22), Jean-Nicolas Strauss (X22) et Hanna Mergui (MSc&T Intelligence Artificielle)
30 Jan. 2024

The change in the scale of cybercrime has led to an explosion in the need for cybersecurity training and research, explained Vincent Strubel (X2000 and Ingénieur Général des Mines), Director General of the French Cybersecurityl Agency (ANSSI), during a round table discussion with École Polytechnique students.

« École Polytechnique’s scientific excellence and multi-disciplinary education programs are particularly well suited to meeting these needs," emphasized Vincent Strubel. Two types of profiles are needed to meet cybersecurity challenges, he added: hyper-specialists in highly technical fields that will be impacted by technological breakthroughs such as quantum computing and artificial intelligence, but also generalists who have both a foot in technology and the ability to translate this fundamental technical reality into economics, law, industrial policy and public action in the broadest sense.

"We will never meet the challenge of cybersecurity if it remains a challenge for technicians. We need decision-makers and the population as a whole to take ownership of this subject," said Vincent Strubel, who takes over as head of ANSSI in January 2023.

"Cybersecurity is a major sovereignty issue for France," reminded Laura Chaubard, École Polytechnique's Director General and Acting President, in her welcoming remarks.

"Today, École Polytechnique, at the instigation of the Ministry of the Armed Forces (which oversees it, editor's note), has undertaken to considerably strengthen its education and research capabilities in the field of cybersecurity, with the aim of not only training high-level specialists, but also making these courses more attractive to all," continued Laura Chaubard.

The opening of a specific Cyberdefense recruitment stream within the Epita Bachelor program, with the active participation of École Polytechnique at the start of the 2024 academic year, should thus help to meet the needs formulated by the Ministry of the Armed Forces' Cyberdefense Command (COMCYBER), to meet the many challenges of the fight to secure systems and exchanges.

Guillaume Poupard (X1992), Vincent Strubel's predecessor at the head of ANSSI from 2014 to 2022, joined École Polytechnique’s board of directors in December 2023.

A new era

« Over the past two or three years, we have entered a second era of cybercrime, with the rise of a societal or even existential threat, in addition to the initial strategic threat posed by the use of digital technology as a new vector for espionage between states, » explained Vincent Strubel.

« The threat of espionage remains omnipresent, and unsurprisingly targets sensitive government departments, our diplomatic networks and political decision-making, as well as our businesses, defense companies, space companies and innovative companies in particular. »

Created in 2009, reporting to the Prime Minister and attached to the General Secretariat for National Defense and Security (SGDN), ANSSI's mission is to protect and defend the most critical public and private digital infrastructures.

A number of developments over the past few years have contributed to a change in the scale of cybercrime, creating a new environment in which « you no longer have to be a target to be a victim », emphasized Vincent Strubel.

Organized crime, which has always sought to make money from digital technology, has now industrialized and structured itself with tools that work on a massive scale, particularly in the field of ransomware, which can paralyze public services, with cascading effects on the daily lives of their users.

« Another major development is that, on the State side, a threat is now materializing that has been anticipated for a number of years, namely sabotage: the digital or physical destruction of critical infrastructures by States in a confrontational logic, including pre-positioning logics », continued Vincent Strubel.

« Over and above the critical infrastructures on which the lives of our fellow citizens depend, we have a threat that attacks the very foundations of our democratic functioning, and which is part of a continuum between cyber-attacks and information manipulation with blurred boundaries », warned the ANSSI Director General, citing attempts by foreign powers to influence the outcome of electoral ballots in various Western countries.

« This extension of the threat, which now affects all sectors of society, calls for us to scale up and industrialize our cybersecurity efforts in response to the industrialization of the threat », said Vincent Strubel.