A trove of emails appearing to be from the campaign of French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron has reportedly leaked online. Macron's campaign says the leak was clearly designed to undermine democracy's interests.
French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron's campaign team said late on Friday that it had been the victim of a "massive and coordinated" hacking attack.
The campaign team said in a statement that internal communications and financial documents had been hacked a few weeks ago and were now being circulated across social media at the 11th hour of one of the most dramatic presidential elections in French history. Whoever was behind the leak had sought to "seed doubt and misinformation" a day before Sunday's final run-off vote for the French presidency.
The campaign team also said false documents had been mixed with the leaked campaign files.
"Throughout the campaign, En Marche! has constantly been the party the most targeted by such attempts, in an intense and repeated fashion," the campaign said in a lengthy statement. "The aim of those behind this leak is, all evidence suggests, to hurt the En Marche! party several hours before the second round of the French presidential election."
The French interior ministry said it would not comment on the trove of hacked documents as the official campaign had ended. "Neither the ministry, nor any other ministry would be commenting on this because according to the law, campaigning has ended as of midnight," a spokesman for the ministry said.
France's presidential election commission said it would meet Saturday to discuss the hack and the publishing of the data. The commission also urged media to refrain from reporting the contents of the hacked mails, as doing so could lead to criminal charges.
Leaker identity unknown
Around nine gigabytes of leaked data was posted by a user called EMILEAKS onto the document-sharing website Pastebin.
The anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks posted a link to the trove of leaked documents on Twitter, saying it "contains many tens of thousands [of] emails, photos, attachments up to April 24, 2017." However, it said it was not responsible for the leak itself.
WikiLeaks also questioned the intent of the leak, saying it was likely too late to shift public opinion and affect the outcome of the French election.
Last month, a cybersecurity firm reported that it had spotted a hacking group, believed to be part of a Russian intelligence unit, targeting Macron and his campaign team through a phishing attack. The security firm, Trend Micro, said it appeared to be the same group behind the hacking of Democratic campaign officials ahead of last year's US presidential election.
The campaign team also reported back in February that for a few minutes it had lost access to its servers following an attack believed to have originated from Ukraine.
Macron's team has accused the Kremlin of favoring candidates pushing for a rapprochement with Russia, such as the centrist candidate's presidential rival, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen. Moscow had repeatedly hit back at such claims, saying it has never "intentionally interfered in another country's affairs."
dm/bw (AFP, AP, Reuters)