Macron campaign confirms phishing attempts, says no data stolen

Macron is squaring off against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in the final round of the French election.

Macron's campaign confirmed to the Wall Street Journal on Monday that hackers have tried to steal campaign staff email passwords.

Pro-European centrist Emmanuel Macron and Le Pen claimed the most votes in the Sunday election to make it through to a second round run-off on May 7. The move is seen as part of a broader effort by Russia to destabilize the European Union, while at the same time tpushing pro-Russian agendas in Eastern Europe.

"A huge revelation in this Trend Micro report is that Fancy Bear has significantly upped the sophistication of its cyber attacks", said Greg Martin, the CEO of cybersecurity firm JASK.

Security researchers at the cybersecurity firm, Trend Micro, said that on March 15 they spotted a hacking group they believe to be a Russian intelligence unit turn its weapons on Mr. Macron's campaign - sending emails to campaign officials and others with links to fake websites created to bait them into turning over passwords.

Matthew Gardiner, cybersecurity strategist at email security specialist Mimecast, says that the use of spear-phishing via similar domains is a now a common hacking tactic.

In its story on the report, AP said the Pawn Storm group has been accused by American spy agencies "of acting as an arm of Russia's intelligence apparatus".

"This is not a 100 percent confirmation, but it's very, very likely", Hacquebord said, adding the political nature of the targeting was "really in line with what they've been doing in the last two years".

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The report offers a two-year overview of a group of Russian hackers who are known under various names, including Fancy Bear, Pawn Storm, and APT 28. But he said the M.O. was the similar to that of the DNC hackers - who USA intelligence officials say are linked to Russian intelligence.

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, brushed aside Trend Micro's findings on Monday.

The Associated Press left several messages with the hacker or hackers who had registered the rogue Macron websites.

Feike Hacquebord with Trend Micro told CNN the hack methods were similar to the DNC hackers, who USA intelligence officials say are linked to Russian intelligence.

"The research team didn't have any additional information or speculation on why no other media outlets were confirmed targets", said Trend Micro Vice President of Cloud Research Mark Nunnikhoven.

"Emmanuel Macron is the only candidate in the French presidential campaign to be targeted (in phishing attacks)", his party said in a statement, adding this was "no coincidence".

When asked about a report "on Russian malicious cyber activity" released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in late December in an effort to link Russia to hacking the Democratic Party organizations, Spicer noted that the 13-page report is first and foremost "a how-to manual for the DNC [Democratic National Committee] as to how they can improve their IT security".

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