Russia-linked hackers targeted Macron campaign

Remigio Civitarese
Aprile 25, 2017

Phishing, which typically works by using lookalike emails to trick people into giving out their passwords, was a key vector for the hackers that compromised Democratic Party officials in the United States past year.

The attempts to penetrate the Macron campaign date back to December, Mahjoubi said.

In this photo combination, French centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron waves before he addresses his supporters at his election day headquarters in Paris, Sunday April 23, 2017, left, and far-right candidate for the presidential election Marine Le Pen waves at supporters after she delivers a speech during a meeting in Bordeaux, southwestern France, Sunday, April 2, 2017, right. "All forces including the European Union will work for Macron to win" by mobilizing votes against the anti-euro Le Pen, he said.

Tokyo-based Trend Micro said Macron's campaign was targeted in March and April by a cyberspy group called "Pawn Storm".

Many observers feared a repeat of the US electoral contest in 2016, when hackers allegedly backed by Moscow broke into the email inboxes of the Democratic National Committee and other political operatives.

"We can not say for sure whether this was directed by the Russian government but the group behind the attacks certainly appears to pursue Russian interests", added Ferguson, speaking from the company's London offices.

Trend Micro's report, which was produced independently of the Macron campaign and lists 160 attempts at electronic espionage across a series of targets, adds a measure of evidence to the claim, saying hackers set up a bogus website to harvest the passwords of Macron campaign staffers.

In remarks to Russian news media, he added that Russia had "never interfered" in foreign elections.

Macron's campaign manager, Richard Ferrand, complained bitterly in February of "hundreds if not thousands of attacks" on the campaign's computer networks. The Russian government has denied any connections to the hackings.

Trend Micro gave the group the name Pawn Storm two years ago after a strategy in chess in which a player moves pawns in quick succession toward an opponent's defenses.

Le Pen has taken loans from Russian banks and has repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin. Even as votes were being counted, Russian state TV presenter Dmitry Kiselyov argued on his flagship Sunday program that the entire French state machine was working against Macron's rivals.

But analysts said Putin would have good reason to favour conservative nationalist Le Pen over centrist Macron in the upcoming poll. "The Kremlin networks try to accentuate the doubts and divisions, and to propose the "Russian model" as a solution. And these efforts will not end with the elections".

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