New French army video seeks to recruit geeks and gamers

Text by Stéphanie TROUILLARD

The French army wants to recruit a new generation of cyber warriors – and a high-adrenaline recruitment video released this week seeks to convince a nation's IT geeks and video game enthusiasts that the military could be an exciting career option.

The video, titled “Digital combat at the heart of our operations”, also sets out quite clearly who the new enemy is – and why the French military sees itself as a force to be reckoned with as warfare moves ever more into cyberspace.

The video's opening is worthy of a James Bond film – or the introductory sequence of a state-of-the-art video game.

A masked operator sits behind a computer screen as high-definition graphics portray a dangerous and highly networked world.

A flurry of obscure names fills the screen: references to infamous cyber warfare events that will be unknown to many but instantly recognisable to the French army’s target audience.

These include, among others, the “Stuxnet” virus that infiltrated Iran’s nuclear development programme, the “Estonia 2007” Russian offensive against its tiny Baltic neighbour, and the shadowy “Anonymous” activist association.

Battlefield thrills

The video then shifts up a gear, showing how IT (Internet technology) interacts with more muscular and high-octane battlefield thrills.

Set to a heavy metal soundtrack, fighter jets zoom by, helicopters fire missiles, submarines emerge from the depths and infantrymen launch surveillance drones while technicians coordinate the fight from behind the scenes.

It could prove quite a draw for the sedentary geek who dreams of exerting influence from behind his or her laptop screen.

“Master the information,” the video tells its viewers, followed by the words “attack”, “destroy” and “influence”.

Potential recruits will be under no illusions as to who are the targets of this new cyber offensive. As well as citing “individuals”, “terror groups” and “states”, the video shows Middle Eastern fighters waving the black and white flags of the Islamic State group, which has been waging its own online campaigns.

‘You have been warned’

The French army’s latest recruitment drive follows a January announcement by Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian that France is creating a military “fourth service” – beyond the army, navy and air force – and intends to spend a billion euros between now and 2017 building up the country’s cyber warfare capabilities.

The video passes muster with at least one expert in the French military.

“It’s clean, it’s modern and it shows they have understood what excites young people today,” François-Bernard Huyghe, of the country's leading military think tank, the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs, told FRANCE 24. “This video really makes you want to get into combat, to get involved.”

Whether or not it will tempt France’s would-be hackers and business-IT types to choose a military career – with a meagre military salary – remains to be seen, but Huyghe believes the ad sends a strong message to potential recruits as well as the country’s adversaries.

“This video says clearly that we have developed offensive weapons for the digital age and that they are ready to be used,” he said. “The enemy has been warned.”

Source: France24

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