back to article French spies warn politicians of hack risk as election draws near

French authorities are warning political parties about the increased threat of cyber attacks as the country prepares to elect a new president in May. Last year's US presidential election was marred by cyber attacks and leaks. US intel agencies blame Russia for the hack1 and subsequent leak of sensitive emails and other …

  1. Your alien overlord - fear me

    I take it this to to preempt Le Pen winning and kicking off a shitstorm about how everything is fixed?

    1. WonkoTheSane

      I don't follow EU politics.

      Is Le Pen the most Trump-ety French politician?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Le Pen is similar to Farage and Trump, just better educated, but pretty much the same, yes.

        Frexit is on the agenda.

    2. Potemkine Silver badge

      If Le Pen wins we will be very close of a civil war.

      Le Pen's movement already gets a lot of money from the "Saint Basil the Great Charitable Fund". It should be a good thing to look at if it gets more help from Russia.

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        If Le Pen wins we will be very close of a civil war.

        I doubt we'd get to a civil war. Stability in the EU zone will certainly be lost. I'm certain the EU as we know it wouldn't survive Le Pen managing to get a Frexit through.

        1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

          RE: I doubt we'd get to a civil war.

          I pray that you are right but do you remember Beirut? When I was a kid it was the equivalent of Paris in the Middle East - there were tensions certainly but nobody thought (at the time) that it would be virtually destroyed in a civil war.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "EU as we know it wouldn't survive Le Pen managing to get a Frexit through."

          And that's a bad thing ?

          We already have too may politicians and more than enough bureaucracy.

          1. imanidiot Silver badge

            @AC I'm not making a statement as to it being a good or a bad thing. It certainly won't be a good thing short term (just like brexit certainly won't). The effect long term remains to be seen and is pretty much anybody's guess. Depens on how badly the US manages to antagonise the Rusians and Chinese (the South China Sea problem has a good likelyhood of becoming a bit of a pickle). And how the EU manages foreign relations in the years to come.

  2. davenewman

    No doubt APT28 will take private contracts from politicians as well as the GRU. Maybe Donald Trump knows it wasn't the Russian government didn't hack the DNC, because his companies paid for it.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      He was pretty specific several times mentioning a "400 pound guy sitting on a bed somewhere"...maybe he found someone willing to take payment in Ding Dongs?

    2. Tom Paine

      I guess you think you're joking, but that dossier makes for a fascinating read, even if you disbelieve 90% of it.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    dont blame the hacker. blame their paymaster.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Any "interested agent" will (attempt to) acquire useful information from all of the "could win" party organisations & their senior politicians and advisors. The agents' aims may range from improving their modelling of future government behaviour through to influencing and even directing that behaviour.

    For the best results they require a government that has uncontested control of the law-making process etc, so where necessary they will try to bias the political process to get such a government - this does not imply they have any preferences regarding the actual politics of the parties involved.

  5. Naselus

    I wouldn't be too worried if I were the French, at this point tbh, and even less so for the Germans.

    Of course Russia tried to influence the US election. As Obama (to his credit) repeatedly pointed out when this was all coming out, foreign governments have been trying to influence US elections since they started having US elections. The problem is that this time they were successful, but that wasn't because they were any more competent about it than they have been over the past 200 years. It's because the defenses against such influence have gradually fallen apart over several decades.

    In the US, public trust in the various forms of major media was historically low (like 20% low), while trust in social networks was relatively high (like 40%). This is the reverse of Europe, where trust in information from the web, and especially social media, is extremely low (around 10% of the population view it positively) and trust in traditional print media is high (around 50-50, which is historically low but good for modern times). This is why stuff like Pizzagate doesn't happen in Europe, and why the Russian 'firehose of bullshit' is more effective on the left shore of the Atlantic - the traditional role of the media as a gatekeeper has been heavily eroded by years of right-wing radio hosts attacking it.

    Britain is marginally more vulnerable than the rest of Europe, as our media has been repeatedly shown to be dodgy as hell in the last decade or so (the right by the phone hacking scandal and Rupert Murdoch's declining reputation generally, while the left is infuriated by it's own press' hatred for Saint Corbyn). But the USA is really in a league of it's own for the deeply-held notion that all the media is biased.

    Ironically enough, it actually IS all quite badly biased, just not in the way that most people believe (it's constantly hugely pro-US foreign policy, for example, but Rush Limbaugh rarely feels the need to complain about that).

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      I'm not sure that high levels of trust in the media are necessarily a good thing. In the UK people have very little trust in the press, especially the tabloid press, and even traditionally trustworthy sources like the BBC are now seen as pushing a political agenda (maybe they are, maybe not, but there's a belief that they are). The result is that people are sceptical of what they read.

      In France the very paternalistic society means that people trust the state and the media somewhat blindly. If it's in Libération or Le Figaro it's trusted much more than something published in the Guardian or Daily Telegraph in the UK would be, for example.

      What that means, though, is that there's less precautionary scepticism in the society. If one of those papers does start pushing a specific agenda it is much more likely to be swallowed without questioning it, at least for a time.

  6. Peter 26

    They don't like it up em!

    Previously it was just the Western powers who could influence a small country's elections. But now with a bit of hacking it has opened it up to everyone.

    It's really interesting watching the world change due to the Internet. I think back to when it was only us geeks using it, so much has changed in such a short period of time.

  7. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

    The real danger

    Is simply instilling doubt in the legitimacy of the democratic institutions. Unfortunately, that doubt can be installed as much by the sore losers claiming the election was rigged, regardless of whether it really was, as by it really being rigged. For democracy to work, people have to believe in the legitimacy of the process & institutions. The people at the top of already authoritarian regimes like Putin & Xi benefit simply by having fewer democracies in the world to contrast against.

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: The real danger

      Respectfully, I disagree - I think that "doubt" is much healthier than blind "trust" with no basis. The Republicans, having sown doubt and distrust for 8 years, are now requiring that the Democrats accept an election shadowed in uncertainty.

      To a degree I think that Trumps victory in the election has averted a political crisis in the USA but valid doubts about the results, widely promoted by the Republicans themselves prior to the election, mean that we have to address the issues of trust head on. This is not a bad thing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The real danger

        "[...] Trumps victory in the election has averted a political crisis in the USA [...]"

        More a case of "delayed a political crisis in the USA".

        Even alt-right commentators are fretting about the potential extreme backlash when Trump fails to deliver on his promises. Some of the disaffected would be happier with VP Mike Pense's hardline rightwing policies following impeachment or the 25th Amendment. That is unlikely to soothe the Rust Belt when Government help is further cut.

  8. Paul Woodhouse

    Frump and Tarage are positively liberal compared to Le Pen I believe.

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      Marine Le Pen is definately not her father. Some of her speeches are actually well thought out and interesting.. she is no worse than Sarko....but she is definately not a world class politician, nor is she a Billionaire, so she won't be able to pull of any of Trumps stunts.

      I would probably prefer a Marine Le Pen to a Hilary Clinton, Hilary is far more dangerous character...

      I doubt that MLP will get through though, it's far more likley to be Valls, Macron or Fillon. Although Polls have no real standing the Wikipedia poll is interesting and probably close to the truth..,_2017

      It's impossible to know what way any potential hackers would swing as the hacking could come from anywhere and anyone with sufficient political/personal interest... Bascially any 1st world power... ( USA, Israel, Russia, China, UK)

      1. Dr_N

        "Marine Le Pen is definately not her father."

        She's not who's father?

        I was accosted by FN pamphleteers yesterday. One got very nasty when I revealed I was foreigner.

        All of LePenn's attempts to hide/whitewash(sic) the organisation will never wash away the stink of the party's grassroots douchebags

        You'd prefer them, you say?

      2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        People lie to pollsters

        I doubt that MLP will get through though, it's far more likley to be Valls, Macron or Fillon.

        If there's a second round I agree with you, she stands no chance against Fillon, and little against the other two likely opponents.

        It's a potentially big "if", though. French voters have a tendency to use the first round as a protest vote, to send a message, before lining up behind more moderate candidates in the final head-to-head runoff. That bit them in 1995, and could do so again. Le Pen is the only mainstream candidate who is vocally anti-EU (especially anti-euro) and anti-immigration, and it wouldn't surprise me to see her get a big first-round vote from across the country on those issues. People forget that if she should happen to pass the 50% in that first round, there won't be a second round, she'll be elected. With the FN sitting at a consistent 25-26% now, and given people's tendencies to lie about voting for them in polls, passing that 50% in April isn't impossible.

  9. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Hacking French politics ? Not worth it.

    First of all, a reminder : in France the election is held with paper ballots. There is a pretty good procedural trail for it all and the instances of tinkering are traditionally ALL found and dealt with. No hacking possible there.

    Second, political party websites do not have the same impact in the land of Baguette and Cheese (and red wine) as they do in NSA-land. There are too many political parties, and there are too many eyes of different types looking at them for anything untoward to go unnoticed for a long time.

    For any hacking to be influential, it would have to be across too many political convictions to be feasibly successful.

    Finally, nobody I know gives half a flying one about this election. There is nothing but bad choices on the list, so meh.

    Hey Putin ! Give it miss here, waste of your time. If you do try, it'll only make us feel (even more) important.

    And nobody wants that, right ?

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: Hacking French politics ? Not worth it.

      There is nothing but bad choices on the list, so meh.

      That was the case in the US too - Hillary was the weakest Democratic candidate in years and would have almost certainly been beaten by many of the first round candidates who Trump vanquish in the later rounds. In the end we all thought that she'd win simply because Trump was so awful - it looks like she lost because too many voters simply stayed home or voted for someone that they thought was not as bad as the top two choices.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hacking French politics ? Not worth it.

        Well assuming these numbers are correct

        Trump Clinton

        Popular vote 62,979,879 65,844,954

        Percentage 46.1% 48.2%

        Then Clinton did win, however the system decided otherwise.

        Democracy, no I don't think so.

        1. tom dial Silver badge

          Re: Hacking French politics ? Not worth it.

          Clinton did not win, by the only valid criterion for a US Presidential election, and repeating the false claim that she did, no matter how many times, will not change that.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hacking French politics ? Not worth it.

          "Democracy, no I don't think so."

          The interesting failure was of the Electoral College delegates in merely rubber stamping their states' preferences - usually a "winner takes all". The founding fathers had set up that EC mechanism explicitly directing individual judgement and conscience to prevent a dubious populist winner.

          If I remember my history - the first USA decision making conclaves were open to anyone. The result was votes for redistribution of wealth and land - much of it owned by the founding fathers.

          Thus direct populist power was considered not to be a good way to run the country. It was decided that the populace should only elect representatives - who would then make independent informed decisions.

        3. wayward4now

          Re: Hacking French politics ? Not worth it.

          "Then Clinton did win, however the system decided otherwise." Clinton did not win shit. She lost. Popular vote doesn't count and she damn well knew that. Yet, she didn't pander/solicit to the rust belt states and it was their electoral college votes that propelled Trump past her to win. That method of voting for the President has been with us since the founding of this country. If she was ignorant of how the vote is decided, she should have lost. Anyone mentioning the "popular vote" is just as ignorant.

    2. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: Hacking French politics ? Not worth it.

      The assumption that use of paper ballots is secure is a bit delusional, as is the idea that controls in paper ballot systems cannot be circumvented. In the US this was true a century (and more) ago, before the progressives cleaned it up; half a century ago, in the waning days of the large city political machines; and it is true still in the time of optically scanned ballots.

      True story: at a primary election in a state and city I do not choose to name, the senior official on site directed that the box containing the paper ballots be unsealed and the ballots removed, sorted by political party, and counted so that we could be sure that the machine count would agree with the paper records being prepared as "controls." I do not think anyone altered or spoiled a ballot, but could not testify that it was not done, as I was busy with my own counting. know that I could easily have spoiled or with slightly more difficulty recorded votes on incomplete ballots. Once the counts had been reconciled, the ballots were replaced in the box and a new seal applied.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        @tom dial

        I am not assuming that paper ballots are "secure". They are, however, immune from "hacking", and France does not have "optically scanned ballots". The only optics used are Eyeball v1.0.

        I specifically stated that ALL cases of attempted tampering have been found and corrected. I stand by my statement. If you think that we haven't had our set of dead people voting and such nonsense, I regretfully inform you that you are mistaken - it has happened and it has been rooted out.

        Senior officials exist, and there are attempts at changing votes. French democracy is good enough to root those things out, is all. Again, it's because of the number of different politically-oriented eyeballs that are on the lookout, not because of any specific French-based privilege.

        That's all I'm saying.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hacking French politics ? Not worth it.

      "Second, political party websites do not have the same impact in the land of Baguette and Cheese (and red wine) as they do in NSA-land. "

      Third, personal misdemeanours of a sexual or financial nature seem to be of no real concern to the French voters. So - Russian hacking to expose, or falsify, such activities would not have the same effect.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Hacking French politics ? Not worth it.

        Third, personal misdemeanours of a sexual or financial nature seem to be of no real concern to the French voters.

        If they're bad enough, they do. Ask Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    They fearing a Russian hack,?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You Don't Need To Know

    "Election Hacking" appears to simply mean making information available to the public that you don't want them to have. Reference Ms Merkel's recent hot-mic remarks to Zuckerberg, ,Mr Schnauble's recent interview remarks on Russian "election hacking" or the DNC/Podesta emails.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You Don't Need To Know

      "Election Hacking" appears to simply mean making information available to the public that you don't want them to have"

      It now also includes dissemination of possibly false allegations against a candidate - generated by outside sources.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    The elephant in the room

    The real story should be the contents of the leaked emails. As in how they show the dichotomy between the politicians private and public utterances. Assuming the truth of the FireEye report and Hillary and the DNC were hacked by Russian hackers. This begs the question as to why such systems are so easy to hack and where to lay the blame for such egregious ingress into the US political process. It also conveniently plays into the current attack on Trump as being under the influence of Putin. Or else the Washington establishment has only woken up to the realization that they cannot control Trump. So the best strategy is to keep attacking him with minor scandals until he learns to do as he's told, like they had to do with Obama. By 'they' I mean the Deep State, a combination of the various security agencies, the intelligence community, the military and of course the owners of the major corporations. You know, the real rulers of America.

    NSA tapped German Chancellery for decades, WikiLeaks claims

    AT&T Helped U.S. Spy on Internet on a Vast Scale

    German magazine: NSA spied on United Nations

  13. Tom Paine

    APT28 (AKA Fancy Bear) is suspected by other security firms to be a unit of Russian military intelligence agency, the GRU.

    Not quite -- IIRC F-Secure, who were the first to write them up (as "the Dukes") tentatively suggested they're a freelance unit who do work for the Russian state but also for others.

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