UPDATE — 5/9, 2:16 p.m. EDT: In sworn testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday, NSA Director Mike Rogers said U.S. Cyber Command notified the French government of hacks on then-candidate Emmanuel Macron by the Kremlin before the story went public.
“We had become aware of Russian activity. We had talked to our French counterparts and gave them a heads-ups — ‘Look, we’re watching the Russians. We’re seeing them penetrate some of your infrastructure,'” Rogers said.
According to France’s election commission, “a significant amount of data” from Macron’s computer systems and email accounts was distributed on social media Friday and Saturday, before Sunday’s presidential vote.
French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron had links to over 70,000 emails and personal and business files shared on a public website Friday evening due to a “massive and coordinated hacking operation,” which had targeted the En Marche party candidate for months.
The data breach comes a just two days before polls close in France at 8 p.m. local time on Sunday, when voters will decide whether to embrace the nationalist reforms of National Front candidate Marine Le Pen or continue to follow the liberal principles of a unified continent under the European Union with Macron.
Varying reports estimate between nine and 14.5 gigabytes worth of Macron-related data were linked on the text storage site Pastebin. According to campaign officials, the documents were obtained in April after “intense and repeated” hacking attempts.
“Fake documents” were also included in the trove of information released by the perpetrators “to create confusion and misinformation,” the En Marche party said. WikiLeaks has refuted the claim on Twitter, saying they have not yet found any phony material.
“The En Marche! Movement has been the victim of a massive and co-ordinated hack this evening which has given rise to the diffusion on social media of various internal information,” read a statement by the party.
Although the source of the breach is officially unknown, Macron’s campaign has indicated it’s been subjected to hacking attempts since January, hinting Russia-allied groups were behind the effort.
In April, a report by software security company TrendMicro, which analyzed En Marche cyberdata, said that hacking methods used to infiltrate DNC computer systems in 2016 were similar to attempted breaches of Macron campaign email accounts.
Similarly, a New York-based cybersecurity firm told Reuters news agency that Macron hacking attempts were nearly identical to American political campaign breaches traced back to a Ukrainian-based group associated with Russian military intelligence agency GRU.
En Marche party leader, Richard Ferrand, has also accused the Kremlin of engaging in a “fake news” campaign against Macron, promoted through state-run media. Russian officials have consistently denied involvement in foreign elections, although allegations abound.
Rival candidates of the most recently hacked campaigns in the U.S. and France, Donald Trump and Le Pen, both campaigned on establishing a better diplomatic relationship with Russia.
The latest survey polls on Friday show Macron leading Le Pen by a large margin, 62 percent to 38 percent.
[CNN] [Reuters] [AFP] [AP]