Security Analysts See Russian Role in French Election Hack

May 6, 2017, 6:40 PM UTC
Patrick Kovarik/Pool Photo & Sipa—AP

Security analysts say they have found evidence of Russian state involvement in Friday’s release of hacked emails from the campaign of French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron. As with alleged Russian interference in the recent U.S. election, the Macron hack could represent an attempt to boost a candidate seen as more favorable to Russia: right-wing French nationalist Marine Le Pen, who faces the centrist Macron in Sunday’s second-round runoff.

Speaking to Reuters, cybersecurity researcher Vitali Kremez said he has found information linking the Macron hack to a group called APT 28, which in turn has been tied to Russia’s military intelligence service.

APT 28 is said to have recently registered Internet addresses that mimicked the name of Macron’s party, En Marche! (translation: “Forward!”), and which may have been used to send phishing emails that compromised the Macron campaign’s security.

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Russia was also blamed late last month when reports of cyberattacks on the Macron campaign first emerged. Another security analyst, Trend Micro’s Feike Hacquebord, also laid blame on APT 28, also known as Pawn Storm.

Le Pen, much like U.S. President Donald Trump, has been criticized for her closeness to Russia. Le Pen’s National Front party has received large loans from Russian banks. Help in securing that loan evidently came from the Kremlin, in thanks for Le Pen’s endorsement of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s takeover of Crimea. Le Pen has also called for the end of sanctions against Russia, and was given a exceptionally warm reception at the Kremlin in late March.

Meanwhile, the Russian state-sponsored news services Sputnik and RT have vigorously opposed Macron, including by publishing accusations that he is secretly gay. (He has been married to Brigitte Trogneux since 2007.) Domestic Russian news sources have described Macron as a “psychopath” with “fishlike, slightly bulging eyes.”

French election authorities are warning domestic journalists and Internet users against publishing the leaked Macron documents during an official media blackout on campaign coverage that began just after the emails were released.