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French security chief warns of 'permanent war' in cyberspace

France's cyber security chief has warned of the risk of "permanent war" in cyberspace as a result of hacking for espionage and fraud purposes by states and criminals.

Guillaume Poupard said of cyber attacks that "in terms of effects and impact, we are clearly getting closer to a state of war".

The director general of the government cyber defence agency known in France by its acronym, ANSSI, lamented a lack of commonly agreed rules to govern cyberspace and said nations "must work collectively, not just with two or three Western countries, but on a global scale".

Mr Poupard also said there is no evidence that a notorious Russian hacking group was behind the cyber attack on President Emmanuel Macron's election campaign.

The Macron campaign hack "was so generic and simple that it could have been practically anyone", he said.

He said they found no trace that the Russian hacking group known as APT28, blamed for other attacks including the one which hit the US presidential campaign, was responsible.

Its experts were immediately dispatched when documents stolen from the Macron campaign leaked online on May 5 in the closing hours of the presidential race.

Mr Poupard said the attack's simplicity "means that we can imagine that it was a person who did this alone. They could be in any country".

Mr Poupard said: "With what we see today - attacks that are criminal, from states, often for espionage or fraud but also more and more for sabotage or destruction - we are getting closer, clearly, to a state of war, a state of war that could be more complicated, probably, than those we've known until now."

His comments echoed testimony from the head of the US National Security Agency, Admiral Michael Rogers, to the US Senate armed services committee on May 9.

Admiral Rogers spoke of "cyber effects" being used by states "to maintain the initiative just short of war",

He said: "Cyber war is not some future concept or cinematic spectacle - it is real, and here to stay."

Mr Poupard said "the most nightmare scenario, the point of view that Rogers expressed and which I share" would be "a sort of permanent war - between states, between states and other organisations, which can be criminal and terrorist organisations - where everyone will attack each other, without really knowing who did what; a sort of generalised chaos that could affect all of cyberspace".

Contrary to Admiral Rogers, who said the US had warned France of "Russian activity" before Mr Macron's win, Mr Poupard did not point the finger at Russia.

APT28 has been identified by the US government as a Russian intelligence outfit and blamed for hacks of the US election campaign, as well as anti-doping agencies and other targets.

The group also is known by other names, including Fancy Bear.

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