(Bloomberg) -- French authorities said they may hit back at cyber assailants who’ve struck a public hospital, forcing it to suspend all but the most vital systems.
“The attacker is still active, and looking for targets in France,” said Guillaume Poupard, the head of the national cyber security agency ANSSI. He spoke on the sideline of a conference in Paris. “The French law allows us to be active against the attacker, to neutralize it. We’re not ruling it out,” he said.
Authorities said the Nov. 15 attack’s characteristics are similar to those of a criminal group from Russia called TA505 and have deployed 50 agents at the Rouen hospital to repair networks and restore operations. Poupard said a series of attacks in the past weeks hit public and private operators with an emphasis on the health sector. He declined to say if publicly listed companies had been targets.
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While French police may be limited in their response, national agencies are increasingly launching their own cyberattacks across borders. French President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview with the Economist that he wants to collaborate on cyber security with Russia, an area where “we’re waging total war against one another.”
Hospitals are becoming a favorite target for hackers worldwide. In the U.S., three hospitals were forced to suspend all but the most critical cases after a ransomware outbreak last month. Multiple hospitals in Australia also suffered attacks in October. In the U.K. in 2017, an outbreak cost the National Health Service 92 million pounds ($119 million) and shut down networks for several days.
The Rouen hospital, 100 miles northwest of Paris, is one of 13 across France to be listed as a vital medical center. It was forced to halt services over the weekend after attackers sought to block its systems and demanded a ransom. A criminal investigation has been opened.
“They must not have done enough research; hospitals in France have no money,” Poupard said.
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