The French Army is looking to engage cyber soldiers in the war against terrorism.

The word either evokes fear or a smile, and we almost have to wonder if it’s not some type of new movie synopsis. However, the threat is very real. Terrorism has had a lasting effect on the French and has, against all odds, provoked a surge of patriotism in the form of military vocations arising from these tragic events.

The army called it an “emotional effect” after the spike in applications following the attacks of January 2015 caused a snowball effect following the attacks on November 13 of that same year. Interest, in fact, continued throughout the entire year. According to official statistics:

  • The Ministry of Defense announced that during 2015, there were nearly 40% more visits to the armed service’s information and recruitment centers than in 2014.
  • The Marine’s website had twice as many applications.
  • The Air Force had 20 times more online requests after November 13, 2015.
  • And finally, the day after the November 13 attacks, the Army received no fewer than 1,700 contacts, compared to their usual 150 to 300 each day (a ten-fold increase). These numbers continued for more than three weeks afterwards, with 800 contacts per day.

In 2015, the armed services ended up with the highest number of applications in 10 years.

Cyber defense, the 4th branch of the French Army

Before we discuss the elite members who will soon make up this order, let’s first define their scope of actions. Cyber defense assembles a large field of activities, and includes all actions undertaken to:

  • Preserve the national digital landscape and, as such, avoid any infrastructure breakdowns in the event of an attack
  • Warn of nuclear attacks
  • Protect against more sophisticated weapons whether by land, sea or air

What’s more, cyber defense is not only used in defense situations, contrary to what its name suggests. According to the Minister of Defense:

“Today, all military operations include a cyber component.

In addition to land, sea, air and space, cyberspace constitutes an environment in which defense has become a permanent necessity.

Penetrating networks for the purpose of espionage, remote control, destruction of vital infrastructure: the types of threats are numerous.

 

Cyber soldiers: a different type of soldier

On January 18, 2019, Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Forces, stated that she intends to put a cyber-offensive military doctrine in place, and will recruit 1,000 new cyber soldiers by 2025.

With 1,123 positions to be filled, the army is working relentlessly to adjust its salary policies to be more in line with the private sector, thereby attracting more candidates. Fortunately, the army is still an attractive field, thanks to the service values conveyed by this trade, along with the motivation and engagement of its members.

 

Who are these future recruits?

The objective is to recruit military personnel rather than to use civilians.

However, aware of being behind in this area, the army is looking to start with young recruits. This is why they’re making it a point to be at the career fairs of top universities. These fairs are where everything takes place for young students looking for their first professional experience.

Indeed, graduates with masters degrees are the most attractive to companies. The preferred hunting ground for recruiters is, of course, engineering schools, with School 42 at the top of the list. This school has a reputation for finding the most web-savvy individuals and providing them with the best possible training for digital professions. It’s therefore natural for the army to invest in recruiting these hackers.

In a less conventional way, the army is also becoming more modern by launching campaigns… on social media! Even the news organization 20 Minutes was asked to put out an information page on this new military branch.

 

 

Offering a degreed program remains a priority for Florence Parly. Work-study training would be ideal, as it would allow for faster immersion into this unique type of professional environment. This is already well underway, since l’Ecole Saint-Cyr offers a masters in risk management and national defense. It’s a unique solution which allows students to go into either the army or the private sector, if they wish, at the end of their university studies.

 

To read: A civilian and military cyber security centre in Nancy