Front runner Macron, 39, was the target of a “massive” cyber attack on Friday, timed to try to influence voters going to the polls today.
The presidential election commission met yesterday to discuss the breach of privacy as French media outlets were warned that publishing any of the leaked information could lead to criminal charges.
There is a election blackout in place until polls close at 6pm tonight. The commission said in a statement that it wanted people working in the media, internet sites and social networks to “show responsibility and not to pass on this content, so as not to distort the sincerity of the ballot”.
Opinion polls predict that centrist Macron will beat National Front candidate Marine Le Pen, claiming 62 per cent of the vote.
Experts say he remains on course for a substantial victory despite the leaks.
Russian hackers are thought to be behind an attempt to derail Emmanuel Macron’s election campaign
At the end of last month, Macron’s team said it had been the target of attempts to steal email information dating back to January this year, adding that the perpetrators had failed to compromise any campaign data.
We knew that there were these risks during the presidential campaign
The Kremlin has denied it was behind any such attacks, although Macron’s camp renewed complaints against Russian media and a hackers’ group operating in Ukraine.
French President François Hollande yesterday referred to similar leaks in the run-up to the US election and threatened to “respond” to this latest attack.
He said: “We knew that there were these risks during the presidential campaign because it happened elsewhere. Nothing will go without a response.”
Macron’s party, En Marche, said the act of “massive, co-ordinated hacking” revealed only the legitimate functioning of a presidential campaign but that authentic documents had since been mixed on social media with fake ones to sow “doubt and misinformation”.
Vitali Kremez, director of research at New York-based cyber-intelligence fi rm Flashpoint, said APT28, a group tied to the GRU – Russia’s military intelligence service – was behind the leak.
Last month APT28 registered decoy internet addresses to mimic the name of En Marche.
Front runner Macron was the victim of a ‘massive’ cyber attack with documents and emails leaked
It is likely it used these to send tainted emails in order to hack into the campaign’s computers.
Mr Kremez said: “If indeed driven by Moscow, this leak appears to be a significant escalation over the previous Russian operations aimed at the US election, expanding the approach and scope from simple espionage efforts towards more direct attempts to sway the outcome.”
Ben Nimmo, a UK-based security researcher with the Digital Forensic Research Lab of the Atlantic Council think-tank, said initial analysis indicated that a group of US far-Right activists were behind early efforts to spread the documents via social media. It is believed they were retweeted 87 times in the first five minutes.
They were later picked up and promoted by core supporters of Ms Le Pen in France. Mr Nimmo said: “You have a hashtag drive that started with the Right in the US that has been picked up by some of Le Pen’s most aggressive followers online.”
Capitalising on the social media storm, Florian Philippot, 35, deputy leader of the National Front, tweeted: “Will Macron leaks teach us something that investigative journalism has deliberately killed?”
French media outlets have been warned that publishes any of the documents could lead to prosecution
His comment was described as “vile” by Macron’s spokeswoman Sylvain Fort. Le Monde, a leading French newspaper, said its journalists would investigate information in the leaks but only publish stories relating to them after today’s election.
US intelligence agencies said in January that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered hacking of people tied to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in order to influence the election on behalf of her rival Donald Trump.