Russia-linked hackers targeted Macron campaign

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For Le Pen, her rival in the election, independent centrist Emmanuel Macron, is part of the elite, which she calls the "oligarchy".

The campaign of the French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron has been targeted by what appear to be the same Russian operatives responsible for hacks of Democratic campaign officials before last year's American presidential election, a cybersecurity firm warns in a new report. "It confirms the suspicions we have had since February", Mahjoubi told AFP. He faces Marine Le Pen, the National Front candidate who won 21 percent, in a run-off election May 7.

Putin favors Le Pen in part because she has said she'll vote to terminate European Union sanctions against Russian Federation.

A Trend Micro report claimed that hackers set up a bogus website to harvest the passwords of Macron campaign staffers.

The security firm Trend Micro published a report that accuses hacker groups known as Fancy Bear, APT 28 and Pawn Storm have infiltrated Macron's campaign computers using similar phishing schemes that tricked DNC members, leading to a slew of embarrassing emails getting published on Wikileaks and possibly impacting Hillary Clinton's unexpected loss in the 2016 USA presidential election.

She contends Macron's plan for France amounts to "fratricide" because, she says, it pits people and companies against each other, with the strongest winning.

Trend Micro gave the group the name Pawn Storm two years ago after a strategy in chess in which a player moves pawns in quick succession toward an opponent's defenses. Hacquebord said the Russian hackers had set up or activated domains this month to launch attacks on two prominent think tanks, Konrad Adenauer and Friedrich Ebert, foundations linked, respectively, with the Christian Democratic and Social Democratic parties.

American intelligence agencies, European intelligence agencies, and American private security researchers determined that the group was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee previous year.

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Other U.S. -based firms SecureWorks, FireEye and ThreatConnect have also said the group has ties to the Russian government.

However, the Kremlin dismissed the report.

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

For Trend Micro, the targeting of Macron's campaign is simply the latest in a long list of attempted hacking attacks by the Russian group.

Trend Micro plans to release a full report on Tuesday that provides details of the cyberattacks in the recent weeks.

"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".

Many observers feared a repeat of the USA electoral contest in 2016, when hackers allegedly backed by Moscow broke into the email inboxes of the Democratic National Committee and other political operatives. Pilfered documents subsequently appeared on WikiLeaks and other more mysterious websites, putting the Democrats on the defensive during their losing campaign against Donald Trump, who became United States president.