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The campaign of French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron was hacked, with a massive release of emails and documents dumped less than 36 hours before the final round of voting set for Sunday.
The campaign said it had been the victim of a “massive and coordinated” attack and documents obtained were emails, accounting and contracts, but emphasized that false documents had been added to the cache that was released on the internet.
“This operation is clearly designed to manifest democratic destabilization, as was seen in the U.S. during the last presidential campaign,” the campaign said in a statement.
French law prohibits campaigning after midnight on the Friday prior to the election, so Macron was not able to combat rumors flying around the internet.
The documents started hitting Twitter about 9 p.m. local time. His campaign released the statement about the hack just four minutes before the midnight deadline was imposed.
“We call upon the media eager to report … to consider the nature of the leaked documents, well aware that a large part of them are purely and simply false and [merely] an opportunity to echo this destabilization operation.”
In a statement published Saturday morning, the French election commission said the media should not publish the content “some of which is probably false,” and called on the media to take caution. “The dissemination of false information is liable to fall within the scope of the law, in particular criminal law,” it stated.
French media generally complied, with all the major papers reporting on the attack, but not divulging the contents.
However, they are widely available through Twitter and other sites such as 4chan and Wikileaks.
The data was originally released to Pastebin, an anonymous document sharing site, as 4chan pushed the link along with the hashtag #MacronLeaks across social media. As that started trending, the documents were also shared on Wikileaks.
U.S. alt-right media promoted the hashtag and story overnight, alleging the documents show an offshore bank account and tax evasion as well as possible drug use.
A 4chan user had also posted two forged documents Wednesday ahead of the presidential debate, which allegedly showed Macron has an offshore bank account and pushed the hashtag #macroncachecash. During the debate, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen then brought up the insinuation, stating: “I hope we will not learn anything in these next few days. … I hope we will not learn that you had an offshore account in the Bahamas.”
Calling this defamation, Macron filed suit against Le Pen on Thursday for the accusations.
The Macron campaign has been a target of hackers for months, with another attack happening in early April. Japanese cybersecurity firm TrendMicro said that attack was carried out by the same Russian group that had hacked the DNC last year before the American election.
This attack, too, has pointed at Russian groups, and Macron has banned Russian media RT and Sputnik from his campaign events.
The final round of voting is set to take place Sunday.
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