France fights to keep Macron email hack
from distorting election
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[May 06, 2017]
By Adrian Croft and Geert De Clercq
PARIS (Reuters) - France sought to keep a
computer hack of frontrunner Emmanuel Macron's campaign emails from
influencing the outcome of the country's presidential election with a
warning on Saturday it could be a criminal offence to republish the
Macron's team said a "massive" hack had dumped emails, documents and
campaign financing information online just before campaigning ended on
Friday and France entered a quiet period which forbids politicians from
commenting on the leak.
"On the eve of the most important election for our institutions, the
commission calls on everyone present on internet sites and social
networks, primarily the media, but also all citizens, to show
responsibility and not to pass on this content, so as not to distort the
sincerity of the ballot," the French election commission said in a
The data leak emerged as polls predicted Macron was on course for a
comfortable victory over far-right leader Marine Le Pen in Sunday's
election, with the last surveys showing his lead widening to around 62
percent to 38.
The commission, which supervises the electoral process, said after a
hastily called meeting on Saturday that the data been fraudulently
obtained and could be mixed with false information.
However, its rules may be difficult to enforce in an era where people
get much of their news online, information flows freely across borders
and many users are anonymous.
French media covered the hack in various ways, with left-leading
Liberation giving it prominence on its website, but television news
channels opting not to mention it.
-For 'Election graphic' clik on : http://tmsnrt.rs/2p0TPj3
As much as 9 gigabytes of data were posted on a profile called EMLEAKS
to Pastebin, a site that allows anonymous document sharing, late on
It was not immediately clear who was responsible, but Macron's political
movement said in a statement the hack was an attempt to destabilize
democracy and to damage the party.
"The En Marche! (Onwards!) Movement has been the victim of a massive and
co-ordinated hack," it said.
En Marche! said the leaked documents dealt with the normal operations of
a campaign and included some information on campaign accounts. It said
the hackers had mixed false documents with authentic ones to "sow doubt
France is the latest nation to see a major election overshadowed by
allegations of manipulation through cyber hacking after U.S.
intelligence agencies said in January that Russian President Vladimir
Putin had ordered hacking of parties tied to Democratic presidential
candidate Hillary Clinton to influence the election on behalf of
Republican Donald Trump.
The Kremlin has denied it was behind any such attacks, although Macron's
camp renewed complaints against Russian media and a hackers' group
operating in Ukraine.
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Young people and demonstrators gather in front of the main entrance
during the visit of Marine Le Pen and Debout La France group former
candidate Nicolas Dupont-Aignan at the Cathedral in Reims, France,
May 5, 2017. REUTERS/Charles Platiau
Sunday's election is seen as the most important in France for
decades, with two diametrically opposed views of Europe and the
country's place in the world at stake.
The National Front's Le Pen would close borders and quit the euro
currency, while independent Macron wants closer European cooperation
and an open economy.
On Friday night as the #Macronleaks hashtag buzzed around social
media, Florian Philippot, deputy leader of the National Front,
tweeted "Will Macronleaks teach us something that investigative
journalism has deliberately kept silent?"
Vitali Kremez, director of research with New York-based cyber
intelligence firm Flashpoint, told Reuters his review indicated that
APT 28, a group tied to the GRU, the Russian military intelligence
directorate, was behind the leak.
APT28 last month registered decoy internet addresses to mimic the
name of En Marche, which it likely used send tainted emails to hack
into the campaign’s computers, Kremez said. Those domains include
onedrive-en-marche.fr and mail-en-marche.fr.
"If indeed driven by Moscow, this leak appears to be a significant
escalation over the previous Russian operations aimed at the U.S.
presidential election, expanding the approach and scope of effort
from simple espionage efforts towards more direct attempts to sway
the outcome," Kremez said.
Former economy minister Macron's campaign has previously complained
about attempts to hack its emails, blaming Russian interests in part
for the cyber attacks.
(Additional reporting by Bate Felix, Andrew Callus and Michel Rose
in Paris, Jim Finkle in Toronto and Eric Auchard in Frankfurt;
editing by Alexander Smith)
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