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TECHNOLOGY

French secret service looking for ‘geeks’ to be new recruits

The French secret service is looking to recruit geeks rather than budding young James Bonds as it adapts to new demands in the post-coronavirus world, its technical director Patrick Pailloux told AFP.

In rare public comments, Pailloux said there is a danger that many young tech-savvy French people simply do not consider themselves suitable for the stereotypes of France's Directorate-General for External Security (DGSE).

“We need people who are very connected to new technologies – thus young people,” said Pailloux.

“We have to bring them into the DGSE, it's essential.”

READ ALSO Students battle for a place at France's free coding college

 

The DGSE has previously acknowledged it has seen a surge of interest in its work thanks to the hugely popular TV drama Le Bureau des Legendes (known as Le Bureau outside France).

In the series, hard-bitten spies on dangerous missions around the world notably work closely with IT experts employed by the DGSE deep inside its Paris headquarters.

Young people “have James Bond and the special forces in their heads,” said Pailloux.

“They think: 'I am not Rambo, I am a geek', and it does not occur to them to enter the DGSE.”

“But it is not only supermen who are supercharged. If you are supercharged in science then you can also serve your country.”

And this will be even more crucial in the changed world after the coronavirus where communication will be even more virtual and less in person.

“Cybersecurity is the alpha and omega of global security in the world we live in,” said Pailloux.

“If we are not able to make our systems safe, then all other security is useless,” said Pailloux.

He was speaking as 65,000  school pupils take part in an annual competition in France, with the backing of the DGSE, in decoding and cryptography.

For some it is hard to imagine the jump from decoding for fun to working for the secret services.

But Matthieu Lequesne of the National Research Institute for Digital Science and Technology (INRIA) and one of the co-organisers of the competition said that “behind the maths, logic, computer science, the stakes are political”.

“If we want to take advantage of artificial intelligence, for big data to work, it has to deal with tonnes of data that belong to individuals,” he said.

“And we have to make sure that the platforms that handle this data don't learn anything about us. So the way to respond is good cryptography.”

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LIVING IN FRANCE

France to roll out ID cards app

Technology is being rolled out to allow people to carry their French ID cards in an app form - and could be rolled out to other cards, including driving licences and cartes de séjour residency cards.

France to roll out ID cards app

Holders of French carte d’identité (ID cards) will soon be able to carry certified digital versions of them on their smartphone or other electronic devices, a decree published in the Journal Officiel has confirmed.

An official app is being developed for holders of the newer credit card-format ID cards that have information stored on a chip. A provisional test version of the app is expected at the end of May.

Users will be able to use the ID card app, when it becomes available, for a range of services “from checking in at the airport to renting a car”, according to Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner for the Internal Market.

All French citizens have an ID card, which can be used for proving identity in a range of circumstances and for travel within the EU and Schengen zone – the new app will be in addition to the plastic card that holders already have.

Under the plans, after downloading the app, card holders will need merely to hold the card close to their phone to transfer the required information. According to officials, the holder then can decide what information is passed on – such as proof of age, or home address – according to the situation.

The government has not given any examples of situations in which the app would need to be used, but has set out the main principles and the ambition of the plan: to allow everyone to identify themselves and connect to certain public and private organisations, in particular those linked to the France Connect portal.

READ ALSO What is France Connect and how could it make your life simpler?

Cards will continue to be issued for the foreseeable future – this is merely an extension of the existing system.

Only French citizens have ID cards, but if successful the app is expected to be rolled out to include other cards, such as driving licences, cartes de séjour residency cards or even visas. A digital wallet is being developed at the European level – Member States have until September to agree what it could contain.

READ ALSO Eight smartphone apps that make life in France a bit easier

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