Quantcast
Connect with us

US far-right activists, WikiLeaks and bots help amplify hacked French election leaks: researchers

Published

on

U.S. far-right activists helped amplify a leak of hacked emails belonging to leading French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron’s campaign, some researchers said on Saturday, with automated bots and the Twitter account of WikiLeaks also propelling a leak that came two days before France’s presidential vote.

The rapid spread on Twitter, Facebook and the messaging forum 4chan of emails and other campaign documents that Macron’s campaign said on Friday had been stolen recalled the effort by right-wing activists and Russian state media to promote hacked documents embarrassing to Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton last year.

ADVERTISEMENT

It also renewed questions whether social media companies have done enough to limit fake accounts or spammed content on their platforms and how media organizations should report on hacked information.

Twitter declined to comment on whether it had taken any specific action in response to the Macron leak. Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.

Analysis conducted by The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab published on Saturday found that the hashtag #MacronLeaks reached 47,000 tweets in three and a half hours after it was first used by Jack Posobiec, a writer in Washington for the far-right news organization The Rebel. Posobiec’s online biography said he coordinated grassroots organizing for a group that supported U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign.

Posobiec’s initial tweet on the Macron documents was retweeted fifteen times within one minute and 87 times in five minutes, Atlantic Council senior fellow Ben Nimmo wrote in a blog published on Medium.

Posobiec is prolific on Twitter, where he has a large following of more than 100,000 accounts. Contacted by Reuters, Posobiec said he did not operate bots and that he used his account to share a post he saw on 4chan.

ADVERTISEMENT

Bots helped move the hashtag from the United States to France, according to Nimmo, where surveys show far-right leader Marine Le Pen trailing Macron by more than 20 points heading into Sunday’s election.

French electoral law forbids candidates from commenting during Saturday and until polling stations close on Sunday.

WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy group that published hacked emails belonging to Democrats during the 2016 presidential election, provided the largest boost of attention on Twitter to the Macron emails, Nimmo said.

ADVERTISEMENT

The group did not publish the information itself but tweeted about the leak at least 15 times.

“As the dominant publication in the field we were hours ahead of all other major outlets,” WikiLeaks said in a private Twitter message to a Reuters reporter. “That’s what our readers expect.”

ADVERTISEMENT

DIFFICULT TO ATTRIBUTE

Some researchers also observed the use of identical phrasing in blogs about the leaks, which they alleged was aimed at driving Alphabet Inc’s Google search result rankings. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

About nine gigabytes of data purporting to be documents from the Macron campaign were posted on Pastebin, a site that allows anonymous document sharing.

Other recent high-profile political leaks, including those during the U.S. presidential election, have often been dumped by WikiLeaks, which has a sizeable online following and international recognition.

ADVERTISEMENT

“There is a noticeable lack of a persona taking credit for this,” said John Hultquist, a cyber researcher at FireEye, adding that such an absence made attribution more difficult.

The U.S. cyber intelligence firm Flashpoint told Reuters late Friday that an initial review of the Macron leaks indicated that APT 28, a group tied to the GRU, the Russian military intelligence unit, may be behind the leak, though evidence was not yet conclusive. Among other indicators, the firm said metadata contained in one of the leaked files showed it had been modified by someone who works in the technology industry in Moscow.

But other cyber researchers said that analysis was premature, and western security officials contacted by Reuters were cautious about assigning any attribution. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied accusations it has attempted to use cyber attacks to meddle in either the French or U.S. elections.

The Macron leaks prompted swift alarm in the United States, where many believed Russian President Vladimir Putin was again trying to put his thumb on the scales of a Western election.

ADVERTISEMENT

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Putin ordered the hacking of Democratic emails during the U.S. election to benefit Republican Trump, who has been at times dismissive of those findings and resurfaced his claim earlier this week that China could have been responsible.

U.S. Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement to Reuters that the Macron leak demonstrates the urgency of his panel’s investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in last year’s U.S. election.

Noting the Macron dump may contain fake documents mixed in with authentic material, as some analysts have suggested, Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that the leak may represent “yet another dangerous escalation of cyber interference in a Western nation’s democracy.”

(Reporting by Dustin Volz in Washington; Additional reporting by Joseph Menn in San Francisco, Jim Finkle in Toronto and Mark Hosenball in Washington.; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Mary Milliken)

ADVERTISEMENT


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Facebook

Tech titan chiefs to testify at US antitrust committee

Published

on

The US House Committee on the Judiciary on Monday announced that leaders of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google will testify during an antitrust investigation hearing.

The hearing, scheduled to take place July 27, comes against a backdrop of growing complaints about tech platforms that have dominated key economic sectors, and calls by some activists and politicians to break up the Silicon Valley giants

Chief executives Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Tim Cook (Apple), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) and Sundar Pichai (Google) will be allowed to appear virtually if they wish, according to a joint statement released by Judiciary committee chairman Jerrold Nadler and Antitrust subcommittee chairman David Cicilline.

Continue Reading

COVID-19

New Zealand restricts entry for Kiwis escaping coronavirus

Published

on

New Zealand began restricting the return of its own nationals Tuesday as the country faces an accelerating influx of citizens fleeing coronavirus outbreaks overseas and limited quarantine facilities.

National carrier Air New Zealand put a three-week freeze on new bookings and the government is in talks with other airlines to limit capacity, officials said.

New Zealand has gone 67 days without any cases of coronavirus in the community and its 22 active cases are all in managed quarantine facilities for New Zealanders flocking home from worsening epidemics elsewhere.

There are nearly 6,000 people currently undergoing the mandatory 14-day quarantine in the facilities and another 3,500 are due to arrive this week.

Continue Reading
 

COVID-19

‘Do your part’: WWII film ‘Greyhound’ teaches virus lesson, says Hanks

Published

on

Tom Hanks is "heartbroken" that his World War II thriller must skip the big screen due to the pandemic -- but hopes it can still teach audiences at home a thing or two about acting decently in a global crisis.

"Greyhound," out on Apple TV+ Friday, was written by and stars Hanks as a rookie captain escorting a convoy of Allied ships as they cross the freezing North Atlantic, hounded by Nazi U-boats.

The movie follows a destroyer's terrified young crew crossing the treacherous ocean beyond the range of air cover, bound together in life-and-death responsibility for protecting the fleet and each other.

Continue Reading
 
 
You need honest news coverage. Help us deliver it. Join Raw Story Investigates for $1. Go ad-free.
close-image