Macron Was Anticipating A Clinton-Sized Email Debacle, So He Went On A ‘Counter-Offensive’
The data dump from French President-elect Emmanuel Macron’s campaign just days before the election drew comparisons to the hack of the Clinton campaign last year, but unlike Clinton, Macron’s team was ready.
A trove of what are claimed to be internal documents belonging to Macron’s En Marche! party were dumped on the anonymous website 4chan Friday, just two days before French voters took to the polls. The nine gigabytes of information were quickly shared across the reaches of the internet and some media sources. The size of the dump may sound like a cybersecurity disaster of Clintonian proportions, but it could have been much worse.
Mounir Mahjoubi, the head of the Macron campaign’s digital team, decided to learn from the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee hacks and went on a “counteroffensive” against hackers.
Instead of just trying to prevent users from falling for the same phishing trick Clinton’s team fell for, Mahjoubi and his team inundated the fake URLs with multiple fake usernames and passwords, making it extremely difficult and time consuming to tell which were legitimate.
The hackers’ use of sophisticated phishing attacks was the tell-tale sign of Fancy Bear, a well-known Russian hacking group, likely involvement. Phishing is a relatively basic and common hacker tactic which involves convincing a target to divulge usernames and passwords, often through fake emails. Most phishing attacks are obvious to the well-trained eye, but Fancy Bear is known for creating fake pages so lifelike that they fooled Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta, among many others. The fake pages used against Macron were “pixel perfect,” Mahjoubi told the Daily Beast in April.
Cybersecurity firm Trend Micro claimed in April that Fancy Bear (also known as Pawn Storm, APT 28, Sofacy and STRONTIUM) was behind a constant stream of phishing attacks against the Macron team. Trend Micro held back from blaming Russia for backing the group directly. It is also unclear if Fancy Bear is responsible for Friday’s dump, but the Macron campaign was quick to point fingers at Russia.
“There are hundreds if not thousands of attacks on our computer system, our database and our sites, and by chance this happens to come from the Russian border,” said Macron campaign manager Richard Ferrand, as reported by Politico in February.
It is unclear whether or not the Macron team also provided fake information inside the fake accounts, but the entire nine gigabytes of information has yet to be completely verified as genuine. The original poster of the leaks said they hoped the “human search engine” on 4chan could help sort through the information to “figure out exactly what we have here.” The Macron campaign has suggested the hackers may have included fake documents with legitimate ones in order to “sow doubt and disinformation.”
Regardless, the information dump appeared to have little effect on Macron’s election prospects, as he handily defeated Le Pen with a 65 percent majority.
The data dump from French President-elect Emmanuel Macron's campaign just days before the election drew comparisons to the hack of the Clinton campaign last year, but unlike Clinton, Macron's team wa
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