Russian hackers targeted Macron campaign

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Centrist, Emmanuel Macron is now holding a lead with 23.8% over the 21.5% held by far-right Marine Le Pen, a position thought to be crucial to maintain momentum to be victorious within the French election system.

Other organizations that were apparently targeted by APT-28, cited by Trend Micro, include Emmanuel Macron's French presidential campaign and the office of the prime minister of Turkey.

Mounir Mahjoubi, digital chief for the Macron campaign, confirmed there were attempts to hack the campaign but said they were unsuccessful.

"Le Pen has been very open about her desire to have better relations with Russian Federation, she's an outspoken opponent of sanctions [against Russia], and she's interested in taking France outside of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation", said Will Pomeranz at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington. Le Pen and Putin share antipathy toward the European Union.

Macron, a former French economic minister, won 24 percent of the vote in France's first round of presidential elections on Sunday.

"We have collectively made the National Front normal", he lamented.

The hackers belong to a cyber espionage group linked by some experts to the Russian military intelligence agency GRU. The subject line for some emails sent by the hacking group include "News: Yemen air strikes kill 23 in factory: residents" and "News: Tragedy in Nepal".

It is yet to be determined whether the potential traps have been successful in snaring any email accounts associated with the Macron campaign.

"We did notify French authorities". "They don't give up easily".

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Trend Micro did not name any country as being behind Pawn Storm's activities, but the group is widely suspected of having links to Russia's security services.

The FBI is investigating whether Donald Trump's election was aided by Russian Federation.

The Macron campaign was not immediately available to comment.

The hackers went to the trouble of getting certificates so the disguised sites appeared even more legitimate and used encryption.

Hacquebord's Tokyo-based Trend Micro has consistently said conclusive proof of Russian involvement is hard given the difficulty of attributing cyber attacks. Trend Micro believes this means the group has ramped up operations.

Trend Micro said Pawn Storm frequently targets victims like political parties and candidates that are at odds with Russian geopolitical interests. The German general elections are in September.

Ferrand told a Feb 13 news conference that the En Marche campaign was being hit by "hundreds if not thousands" of attacks on its networks, databases and sites from locations inside Russian Federation.

The report quickly spread in the Western media, with many sensationally headlining their stories suggesting Russia's meddling in the French presidential campaign. "We want a strong Europe. The Americans saw it but it came too late", Ferrand said, according to a Reuters report at the time. USA and European intelligence agencies and US private security researchers determined that the group was responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee previous year.

Putin has dismissed the charges. The Russian government has denied any connections to the hackings. The FBI is leading an investigation into the Russian meddling, and several committees on Capitol Hill also are conducting probes.

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