PARIS — With mere hours left before French voters head to the polls to elect a new president on Sunday, centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron’s political campaign revealed it had been hit by a “massive and coordinated” hacking attack that dumped some 9 GB of information — including tens of thousands of internal emails and other documents — online for all to see.
The stolen information was posted to the text-sharing site Pastebin, a site commonly used by hackers, by an unknown user going by the name EMLEAKS (EM = Emmanuel Macron). Le Monde reported that the first documents were relayed via 4chan, and the hashtag #MacronLeaks quickly began trending on Twitter. WikiLeaks also tweeted a link to the cache of documents, saying it “contains many tens of thousands [of] emails, photos, attachments up to April 24, 2017.” It said it was not responsible for the leak itself, however.
Comparisons to the Russian hacking of the Hillary Clinton campaign during the 2016 US presidential election were immediate. As the Guardian notes, Macron’s team has previously pointed a finger at Russia for repeated hacking attempts during the campaign, saying on April 26 it had been the target of unsuccessful attempts to steal email credentials. Moscow, of course, has denied any involvement.
Macron faces Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate of the National Front, at the ballot box on Sunday. Le Pen visited Moscow in March and met personally with President Vladimir Putin, though during the visit Putin reportedly told her Russia had no interest in interfering in the French election.
“We do not want to influence events in any way, but we retain the right to meet with all the different political forces, just like our European and American partners do,” he said.
But there’s another twist: French law requires that both campaigns go completely dark and make no statements to the press starting 24 hours before the polls open Sunday morning. It’s a way of quieting the barrage of media before people go to the polls.
News of the hack came in early enough Saturday morning that Macron’s party, En Marche, was able to make one statement noting that the hack was clearly planned “to sow doubt and misinformation” and said not all the material uploaded was real but that real and fake documents had been lumped together.
“Coming in the final hours of the campaign, this operation is clearly a matter of democratic destabilization, as was seen in the United States during the last presidential campaign,” the Macron campaign added,
Polls have shown Macron far ahead of Le Pen for many weeks now. It’s unclear what, if any, impact this hacking might have this close to the election, but people all across the city are talking about it — ban or no ban.