Macron campaign targeted by Russia-linked hackers, experts say

If the highly targeted phishing attacks on French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron's campaign had been successful in stealing credentials, the attackers would have become virtual "insiders", gaining access to files and emails that could influence the election, he said.

The Macron campaign's digital chief, Mounir Mahjoubi, confirmed the attempted intrusions late Monday but said they had all been thwarted.

He said "nothing was compromised", however.

Trend Micro believes the attackers contacted the Macron campaign using the domain "onedrive-en-marche.fr".

Some have questioned CrowdStrike's reading of data in other reports, including a December, 2016 report that claimed Russians hacked into a Ukrainian military app and caused weapons to be distributed to Russian-backed separatists, according to Voice of America, the US government-owned news site.

Macron, who won the first round of France's presidential election on Sunday, will face Le Pen in a runoff on May 7.

Security firm CrowdStrike has said the group may be associated with the Russian military intelligence agency GRU.

Though it didn't point its finger at any governments, Trend Micro said it was "very, very likely" a group called Pawn Storm - which USA intelligence considers a Russian spying organization - is behind the attempted hacks.

"This is not a 100 percent confirmation, but it's very, very likely", he said.

A security researcher called The Grugq, who is known as an expert on operational security, said Mr Macron's campaign was an easier target than some because of its reliance on the Telegram app for messaging.

Trend Micro researcher Feike Hacquebord said that determining who was behind a spying campaign was a hard challenge in the world of cybersecurity, but that he was nearly certain.

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.

He added that the campaign had bolstered its digital defences in the wake of the attacks, including cutting connections to the computer servers hosting the campaign's network in February after an attack coming from Ukraine.

The hacking group is known for launching extensive attacks. The move is seen as part of a broader effort by Russia to destabilize the European Union, while at the same time tpushing pro-Russian agendas in Eastern Europe.

Fears of hacking attempts on campaigns were heightened upon entering 2017 by the controversy surrounding the cyber-attacks during the US Presidential race, and all eyes fell upon the election in the Netherlands, and the current French election process in particular. Russian state media have returned the favor by openly supporting the French candidate.

He described it as the "invisible" side of Russia's anti-Macron operation, alongside overt attacks by Russian state media.

"The CrowdStrike report uses our data, but the inferences and analysis drawn from that data belong exclusively to the report's authors", the IISS said, according to. On Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying that the notion that Russian hackers were targeting the French election was "completely incorrect".

  • Jon Douglas