French PM promises to track down hackers who sent threatening messages to schools

The French government has promised to “pursue” the perpetrators of the cyber-attack on 50 high schools in the Paris region.

In a speech on Thursday, Gabriel Attal said he wanted to “identify the establishments most at risk,” and have an appropriate response to each of them. 150 to 200 establishments would currently be affected, said the Prime Minister.

On Wednesday, messages were sent through the ENT digital platform that serves as a link between teachers, pupils and parents; internal emails; or the Pronote software used by the education ministry.

The messages included threats of terrorist attacks, accompanied by a beheading video.

“The perpetrators think they remain anonymous but we are tracking them,” said the Prime Minister, who added that “several dozen” perpetrators of threats have already been apprehended by the courts since the start of the school year. 

“It is absolutely unacceptable, inadmissible,” said Attal, when we are “trying to achieve the serenity of educational establishments”.

According to a police source, at least five high schools in the department of Yvelines, in the west of the Greater Paris region, received bomb threats between Wednesday and Thursday.

Perpetrators “hacked a student’s email address” to distribute the message and a beheading video, the source said.

In the department of Seine-et-Marne, to the east of the French capital, a secondary school received a message saying that explosives had been hidden throughout the establishment “in the name of Allah”, a police source said.

The Ministry of Education is providing psychological support to those who have seen the videos. Specialised investigation services have also been mobilised to identify the perpetrators.

“It was pure, unadulterated hatred for people who are totally innocent, who are in the clear and who just want to study at school,” said one student.

The Paris Public Prosecutor’s Office has opened an investigation into charges of “fraudulent access to and maintenance of an automated data processing system” and “fraudulent introduction of data”. 

The latest threats follow a flurry of false bomb alerts targeted schools, airports and tourist sites in autumn 2023.

In October, a radicalised Islamist stabbed a former teacher to death in the northern town of Arras.

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