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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Monday, April 23, 2018

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Could this be the turning point for Europe? French presidential frontrunner, Macron suffers massive hacking

Turning point for Europe?

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PARIS, France - As the most consequential French presidential election in decades draws closers, with all eyes on whether a Euroskeptic or a Europe uniter wins - the frontrunner in the race reported an issue that could well be the turning point for Europe. 

Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron’s staff has said that the campaign had been targeted by a “massive and coordinated” hacking operation.

Adding that the hacking was one with the potential to destabilize the nation’s democracy before voters go to the polls on Sunday.

The hacking reportedly involved a dump of campaign documents, including emails and accounting records and the dump emerged hours before a legal prohibition on campaign communications went into effect. 

The timing of the leak makes it extremely difficult for Macron to contain any possible damaging fallout before the runoff election.

Macron faces far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who has pledged to pull France out of the euro and hold a referendum to leave the European Union.

The Macron campaign said in a statement that the hackers had mixed fake documents along with authentic ones, “to sow doubt and misinformation.”

It said, “Intervening in the final hour of the official campaign, this operation is clearly a matter of democratic destabilization, as was seen in the United States during the last presidential campaign.”

Meanwhile, on Friday, Le Pen’s campaign staff too stated that its website had faced “regular and targeted” attacks during the campaign.

Further, the statement said that French authorities reportedly investigated the attacks and arrested a suspect this week, who had reportedly admitted to being responsible for several attacks on Le Pen’s campaign website. 

Experts quickly began making comparisons to the U.S. Presidential election hacking in November 2016.

After the most controversial elections in the history of the country, American intelligence agencies concluded that Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin ordered an “influence campaign” to benefit Donald Trump. 

Groups linked to Russia have been accused of trying to hack the Macron organization previously too. 

A cyber security firm even pointed out the links between the U.S. Presidential election hack and the ones that Macron’s campaign have suffered.

According to  Vitali Kremez, the director of research at Flashpoint, a business risk intelligence company in New York, he suspected the involvement of a Russian-linked espionage operation known as APT28. 

He said, “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. 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.”

Meanwhile, the regulatory body, National Commission for Control of the Electoral Campaign said that it was contacted by the Macron campaign on Friday night. 

Adding that it planned to meet on Saturday about the hacking.

The commission said, “It therefore asks the media, and in particular their websites, not to report on the content of these data, recalling that the dissemination of false information is liable to fall within the scope of the law — in particular criminal law.”

The Macron campaign meanwhile said, “We call upon the news outlets that wish to report on this operation to shoulder their responsibilities, in all good conscience. Indeed, this is not a simple hacking operation but well and truly an attempt to destabilize the French presidential election. It is therefore important to consider the nature of the leaked documents, to be fully aware of the fact that a large part of them are purely and simply fake, and the appropriateness of giving an echo to this destabilization operation.”

 

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