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French ministers told to use only secure comms post-PRISM

Reminder of best practice issued after Snowden's revelations

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French newspaper L'Express has published a memo it says comes from Christophe Chantepy, chief of staff to French prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, and which recommends French cabinet ministers stop using smartphones for phone calls because they are not secure.

The paper's report includes three images of the memo, one for each of its pages.

Native French speaker Elodie Quievre, who works in the office where Vulture South camps, was kind enough to translate all three and we rammed L'Express' report through Google and Bing to help out.

Dated August 19th, the memo opens by referring obliquely to recent Snowden-related events and suggesting the make now an ideal time for to “remind elementary rules which must be applied within the administration.”

Those rules state the following0:

  • BYOD is forbidden
  • Mobile phones are a bad idea: landline phones secured by Thales' TEOREM technology for voice calls are far better idea
  • Smartphones should be secured by French spook house ANSSI before being used for anything
  • ANSSI will make sure you encrypt everything
  • TXT? Fuggedaboutit!
  • Intranet-based secure email is mandatory for even low-level secrets
  • Computers and phones should be in the same room as ministers when overseas, and beware snooping when abroad
  • Twelve-character passwords please, using letters and numbers, changed every six months and use different passwords for personal and work devices please!
  • Are you sure that attachment is safe to click on? Don't unless you are.

Cabinet ministers are busy folks who may not encounter basic infosec advice often, so the suggestions in the document don't look like evidence France has been caught with its pants down. The mere fact the memo was issued, and the fact it says it will be backed up by an official ANSSI edict, does however show that Edward Snowden's revelations have made at least one nation feel it is time to get the basics right among a user population that represents an obvious target. ®

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