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CRIME

Internet outages in French cities caused by ‘cable vandalism’

Internet services were down or running slowly in several French cities on Wednesday after suspected acts of vandalism targeting fibre optic cables, one operator and the economy ministry said.

Internet outages in French cities caused by 'cable vandalism'
French telecoms group Free said its cables had been targeted for vandalism. Photo by Sameer Al-DOUMY / AFP

Telecoms group Free announced “multiple malicious acts” targeting its cables overnight, while the economy ministry said it had been informed of “cut cables” as the source of the problems. 

French media reported that underground cables had been cut in Fresnes-en-Woëvre (Meuse), Meaux and Souppes-sur-Loing (Seine-et-Marne) and Le Coudray-Montceaux (Essonne). These networks supply the Paris-Lille, Paris-Strasbourg and Paris-Lyon long-distance internet connections.

For the latest, click here – French internet cable attacks, what we know so far

Free said it had been the victim of “multiple malicious acts” including in Reims and Graveline. It added that engineers had been working on the problem since 4am.

Rival operators Bouygues Telecom and Orange said they were not affected.

But competitor SFR said it had experienced “several fibre cuts” in the Paris region and in Lyon in southeast France.

Problems were reported by users around the country including in the cities of Strasbourg and Grenoble.

The source of the problem is unknown at this stage, but experts stressed that apparently coordinated cuts to fibre optic cables were unprecedented.

“This sort of incident at this scale never happens,” one security source told AFP on condition of anonymity. “It’s the first time and we don’t know who it is for the moment.”

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CRIME

Hackers post French hospital patient data online

Hackers who crippled a French hospital and stole a trove of data last month have released personal records of patients online, officials have confirmed.

Hackers post French hospital patient data online

The cyberattackers demanded a multimillion dollar ransom from the Corbeil-Essonnes hospital near Paris a month ago, but the institution refused to pay.

The hospital said the hackers had now dumped medical scans and lab analyses along with the social security numbers of patients.

“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the unspeakable disclosure of hacked data,” health minister François Braun tweeted on Sunday.

Hospitals around the world have been facing increasing attacks from ransomware groups, particularly since the pandemic stretched resources to breaking point.

The problem has been acute in France, where officials estimated early last year that healthcare institutions were facing on average an attack every week.

President Emmanuel Macron last year called the attacks during the pandemic a “crisis within a crisis” and announced an extra one billion euros for cybersecurity.

During last month’s attack, the Corbeil-Essonnes hospital shut down its emergency services and sent many patients to other institutions.

At one point, officials said the only technology still working was the telephone.

Rather than selling the trove of data, the hacker has dumped at least some of it for download on the “dark web” — a hidden part of the internet that requires special software to access.

Analysts said it seemed to be a tactic to put pressure on the hospital, even though public institutions are banned by French law from paying ransoms.

Cybersecurity researcher Damien Bancal, who revealed the leak and has seen the files, told AFP the worry is that other criminals will now launch scams with the data that has already been divulged.

In response to the leak on the weekend, the hospital severely restricted access to its systems and told patients to be extremely vigilant when receiving emails, text messages or phone calls.

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