Mark Collins – “A Peek into French Signals Intelligence”–with a Canada/CSE Angle

Very interesting, will our media notice what’s at 2.?

France’s former top SIGINT spy confirms an advanced persistent threat and muses about a merger with German intelligence [the foreign intelligence service BND’s website is here–they also do SIGINT as does their French equivalent DGSE, see next para].

Something remarkable happened a few months ago. Bernard Barbier, the former head of signals intelligence (SIGINT) between 2006 and 2014 at France’s foreign intelligence agency (DGSE [website here]), gave a speech at one of France’s top engineering schools in which he reflected on his career and imparted some of his wisdom to students. He also said some things that he probably shouldn’t have, like confirming that France was behind the Animal Farm advanced persistent threat, commenting on the SIGINT capabilities of European allies, and reacting to the revelation that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA [website here]) had compromised the networks of the French presidency.

Last week, Barbier’s speech surfaced on YouTube but was quickly taken down. However, it was up long enough for French daily Le Monde to transcribe some of the highlights. Here they are, paraphrased and translated from the original French…

2. “And yes, it was a Frenchman”

In 2014, Le Monde published documents from the Snowden archive revealing that Canada’s SIGINT agency, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE [website here]), suspected that Paris was behind a cyber espionage campaign that began in 2009 targeting Iran’s nuclear program but also targeting computers in Canada. CSE was able to attribute the campaign to the French based on some reverse engineering revealing that the malware developer used references to a French children’s cartoon character, Babar the Elephant. That reference also led Kaspersky [US  website here] to baptise the malware Animal Farm. Barbier recalls that CSE “concluded that he [the malware author] was French. And yes, it was a Frenchman.”..

Canadian media do not seem to have noticed these revelations at the time. Lots more on  SIGINT here.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is  a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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