As you might expect, prompted by the success in the U.S. elections, the same players tried the same tactics in France.
Computer security researchers have come to the conclusion that far-right activists from the United States, armed with automated bots, along with WikiLeaks, have helped amplify the leak of hacked emails belonging to the French President Emmanuel Macron.
Much like the U.S. elections, the leaks became headlines just two days before French citizens were to vote for the presidential candidate.
The way the leak spread rapidly on Facebook, Twitter as well as other messaging forums, and the way the stolen campaign documents spread across the internet was unmistakably familiar to the way right-wing activists and the Russian state media, embarrassed Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
The right wing campaign has again brought into focus on the steps taken by social media companies to limit if not block spammed content or fake news accounts.
While Facebook did not respond to a request for comment, Twitter declined to comment on whether it had taken any specific action in response to the Macron leak.
As per the results of an analysis conducted by The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab which was published on Saturday, the hashtag #MacronLeaks reached 47,000 tweets in three and a half hours after it was first used by Jack Posobiec, a Washington-based news writer for far-right news organization – The Rebel.
According to Posobiec’s online biography, he coordinated grassroots organizing for a group that supported U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign.
Posobiec’s initial tweet on the hacked Macron documents was retweeted 15 times within 1 minute and 87 times in 5 minutes, wrote Ben Nimmo, an Atlantic Council senior fellow in a blog published on Medium.
Posobiec, a prolific Twitter user with a following of more than 100,000 accounts, when contacted said he did not operate bots. He stated that he used his account to share what he saw on 4chan.
According to Mimmo, it was bots who helped the hashtag move from the United States to France.
Many security researchers have also observed the use of identical phrasing in blogs about the leaks, which they allege was aimed at driving up the hashtag in Google’s search result rankings.
Almost 9GB of data, purporting to be documents from the Macron campaign, were posted on Pastebin, a site that allows the sharing of document anonymously.
“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.
As per Flashpoint, a United States-based cyber intelligence firm, initial review of the Macron leaks point to APT 28, a group that has been tied to the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence unit.
As for the evidence, metadata contained in one of the leaked files shows it had been modified by someone who works in the technology industry in Moscow.
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Moscow had ordered the hacking of Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during the U.S. elections so as to benefit the then Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump.
U.S. Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that the Macron leak demonstrates the urgency of his panel’s investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in last year’s U.S. Presidential elections.