While Republicans slow-walk investigations here, Russian hackers now targeting French election

Posted April 27, 2017

The father of far-right candidate Marine Le Pen says he thinks his daughter has produced a "too laid-back" campaign in the French presidential race.

Macron faces a runoff election in two weeks against far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who advocates friendlier ties with Russian Federation. This has led to allegations from French politicians that Macron was a "US agent" lobbying the interests of the United States financial market in France.

PARIS (AP) — Researchers with the Japanese anti-virus firm Trend Micro say the campaign of French presidential front-runner Emmanuel Macron has been targeted by Russia-linked hackers, adding more details to previous suggestions that the centrist politician was being singled out for electronic eavesdropping by the Kremlin.

The Macron campaign's digital director confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that phishing attempts were used against the campaign, and said measures were taken to block emails leading to the fake domains. "It confirms the suspicions we have had since February", Mahjoubi told AFP. He will face off against Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Front party, who received 21.3% of the vote, in the second and final round May 7.

Le Pen, criticised the European Union sanctions on Russian Federation after it annexed Crimea in 2014 and voiced support for Moscow's intervention in Syria to prop up President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Hacquebord said a single registrant unrelated to Macron's campaign had set up the domain names onedrive-en-marche.fr, portal-office.fr, mail-en-march.fr and accounts-office.fr - all created to appear connected to his campaign or to the Microsoft cloud services it uses.

The company recently detected four fake Macron-themed domains being set up on digital infrastructure used by a group it called Pawn Storm, according to Feike Hacquebord, a Trend Micro researcher.

The intent, he said, was that hackers could send "spearphishing" emails to people associated with the campaign and lure them to click on safe-sounding links that would allow hackers to get a foothold in networks.

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. The broadcaster TV5 Monde was hacked in 2015, and researchers at cybersecurity firm FireEye said Russian-backed hackers carried out the attack.

Pawn storm is also known as Fancy Bear, or APT28.

French officials have also tended to be more circumspect than their American counterparts, repeatedly declining to tie Pawn Storm to any specific actor. Russian officials have denied any state-directed surveillance. On Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying that claims of the Kremlin's attempting to influence the election outcome in France were "completely incorrect".

The news comes as officials are continuing to investigate interference in the 2016 presidential elections in the US, including possible ties between Russian Federation and members of President Donald Trump's campaign. American and European intelligence agencies and American private security researchers determined that the group was responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee previous year.