Sun, May 07, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Authorities try to ameliorate Macron hack fallout

CAMPAIGN CASUALTY:French lawmaker Corinne Erhel was rushed to a hospital and died after suddenly collapsing at a rally for the French presidential front-runner

AFP, PARIS

French authorities yesterday took a hard line on what presidential front-runner Emmanuel Macron called a “massive” hacking attack on his campaign, warning on the eve of the vote that anyone spreading the information could be committing a crime.

The warning came after the pro-Europe centrist’s team lambasted a “massive and coordinated” hack that resulted in the online leak of thousands of e-mails, accounting details and internal documents late on Friday.

It was an unexpected 11th-hour twist ahead of today’s decisive runoff after a bruising and divisive campaign pitting the 39-year-old former banker, who embraces free trade, against his anti-EU, far-right rival Marine Le Pen.

“The dissemination of such data, which have been fraudulently obtained and in all likelihood may have been mingled with false information, is liable to be classified as a criminal offense,” France’s electoral commission said in a statement.

The documents spread on social media just before midnight as the candidates officially wrapped up campaigning, in what Macron’s team termed an attempt at “democratic destabilization, like that seen during the last presidential campaign in the United States.”

Former US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton has alleged Russian hacking of her campaign’s e-mails was partly to blame for her defeat by now-US President Donald Trump in November last year.

Macron’s team said the files were stolen weeks ago when several officials from his En Marche party had their personal and work e-mails hacked — one of “an intense and repeated” series of cyberattacks targeting Macron since the launch of the campaign.

“Clearly, the documents arising from the hacking are all lawful and show the normal functioning of a presidential campaign,” Macron aides said in a statement.

However, they warned that whoever was behind the leak had mixed fake documents with real ones “in order to sow doubt and disinformation.”

WikiLeaks on Friday posted a link to the documents on Twitter, saying it had not yet discovered fakes in the cache of files and “we are very skeptical that the Macron campaign is faster than us.”

Last month, cybersecurity research group Trend Micro said a Russian hacker group called Pawn Storm had targeted Macron’s campaign, using phishing techniques to try to steal personal data.

Senior Le Pen aide Florian Philippot said on Twitter that the leak might contain information the media had deliberately suppressed.

The election watchdog advised the media not to publish details from the documents, warning that publication could lead to criminal charges and that some of the documents were probably fake.

Polls released earlier on Friday had shown Macron gaining momentum, forecasting victory for the pro-European, pro-business former banker with about 62 percent to 38 percent for Le Pen.

Macron and Le Pen — who is hoping to ride a global wave of anti-establishment anger to the Elysee Palace — have offered starkly different visions for France during a campaign that has been closely watched in Europe and around the world.

Le Pen has tried to portray Macron as being soft on security and Muslim fundamentalism, playing to the concerns of many of her supporters after a string of terror attacks in France that have killed more than 230 people since 2015.

She has said she wants to copy Britain’s example and hold a referendum on France’s EU membership, sending alarm bells ringing in capitals across the bloc.

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