Ahead of Sunday’s presidential election in France, it’s déjà vu all over again as the campaign of leading candidate Emmanuel Macron reported Friday it had been targeted by a massive hack and document dump.
As of midnight on Friday, candidates are under a media blackout until polls close on Sunday night. But France’s electoral commission has ordered journalists not to publish the Macron campaign documents, which are a mix of thousands of emails and accounting documents, among other seemingly banal information.
While the source of the hack has not yet been confirmed, Macron’s campaign and security experts suspect the attack was a Russian intelligence operation similar to the one that targeted the campaign of U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton last year. As CNN notes, the operation followed a public endorsement of Macron by former U.S. President Barack Obama.
According to The New York Times:
In the attack reported on Friday, Vitali Kremez, the director of research at Flashpoint, a business risk intelligence company in New York, said he suspected the involvement of a Russian-linked espionage operation known as APT28. “The key goals and objectives of the campaign appear to be to undermine Macron’s presidential candidacy and cast doubt on the democratic electoral process in general,” he said.
“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,” Mr. Kremez added.
Members of APT28 are thought to have passed the information to a second Russia-linked group, which dumped the documents on the internet. WikiLeaks then got involved in what quickly garnered the hashtag #MacronLeaks, which was widely promoted almost instantly by far-right activists in the U.S., The New York Times reports.
An unscientific poll on WikiLeaks, however, thinks hackers who “don’t get timing” were responsible, given France’s media blackout on campaigning:
Regardless of who is behind the hack, analysts believe that Macron, a centrist, has a large enough lead over his far-right opponent Marine Le Pen and will overcome any damage. But the lesson learned in the U.S. from Donald Trump’s victory in the last election looms large. Welcome to elections in the 21st century.
Read Fusion’s rundown of the French election here.