The campaign of French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron has been hit by a massive hack, as French voters prepare to go to the polling booth on Sunday.
Centrist Macron currently enjoys a healthy lead over his conservative rival Marine Le Pen, but there are apparent attempts to damage his reputation just in time for voting. One area of supposed concern relates to alleged tax evasion, although it’s far from clear if there is any basis for truth in the claims.
When Le Pen alluded to the allegations, carefully wording her comments to say she “hoped” it wouldn’t become an issue for her rival, Macron responded by saying that such accusations would amount to “defamation”.
“Massive, co-ordinated hacking”
The new Macron leaks amount to around nine gigabytes of data and have been posted anonymously online. The leaked files are said to contain many internal campaign documents.
Macron’s En Marche party said the leaks are an “act of massive, co-ordinated hacking”, and that fake documents had been mixed in with genuine documents to muddy the waters and cause confusion.
It added that: “The leaked files were obtained several weeks ago by hacking personal and professional email accounts of several officials of the movement,” in a statement quoted by the BBC.
Will the Macron leaks do similar damage to the Hillary leaks?
The Macron campaign has stated that the hack is clearly an attempt to undermine French democracy, but has not pointed the finger at any culprit.
Nevertheless, comparisons are predictably being made between the Macron leaks and Hillary Clinton’s hacked campaign during the 2016 US presidential elections. Suggestions of Russian involvement are widespread.
Last month, security company Trend Micro said it believed Russian hackers were targeting Macron’s campaign.
A group of Russian hackers known as Fancy Bear, APT28 and Pawn Storm were thought to be involved.
“We have seen that phishing sites were set up, and the fingerprints were really the same actors as in the Democratic National Congress breach,” Trend Micro’s Feike Hacquebord, told Reuters.
“Macron leaks” and “#Macronleaks” are now trending phrases and searches online. Florian Philippot, deputy leader of the National Front, Marine Le Pen’s parent party, Tweeted “Will Macronleaks teach us something that investigative journalism has deliberately killed?”
Legal action against online rumors
This week, Macron began legal action over online rumors that he uses offshore banking in the Caribbean, a system often used by the wealthy to evade tax.
An aide to Macron told the AFP news agency Thursday: “We will not hesitate to prosecute for defamation anyone who repeats this false information.”
The timing of the Macron leaks is clearly intended to do maximum damage before Sunday’s vote, but whether they have the impact the Hillary leaks had remains to be seen.