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France holds cyber-defence exercises for army

France wants 3,200 cyber soldiers by 2019, fearing major attacks on its infrastructure. France has been holding annual exercises aims to unearth special talents in its armed forces. Dozens of exercises were held across the country between March 20 and 31, involving 240 people from 12 elite technology colleges, part of a plan to create an army of talented cyber spies to counter digital destabilisation efforts.

Officials want them to be ready to face cyberwarfare that could target civil infrastructure such as water, electricity, telecommunications and transport. They will also be expected to protect French democracy itself, amid allegations that Russia interfered in the US presidential election last year. Cyber defence has become one of France's national security priorities as states like Russia, China and Iran, criminal groups and even some allies sharpen their own digital abilities.

"The threats will grow. The frequency and sophistication of attacks is increasing without respite," Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in December after unveiling the army's new cyber operational command.