“Russia is using all of its means to influence public opinion. It is not the same ideology as in the time of the USSR, [but] it is sometimes the same methods, with more technology. Russia has a strategy of influence, of networks, with very conservative moral views.”
French President Francois Hollande
President Francois Hollande is accusing Russia of trying to interfere in the campaign, ahead of the first round on 23 April and a run-off on 7 May. Follow us on Twitter: @Intel_Today
Earlier this year, France’s primary intelligence agency warned the country’s government that Russia has launched a secret operation to try to influence the outcome of the upcoming French presidential election in favour of the far-right.
According to the Paris-based weekly newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné, France’s Directorate-General for External Security (DGSE) has notified the country’s leadership that a covert operation by the Kremlin is already underway, and is expected to intensify in the run-up to April’s election. The spy agency allegedly believes that Russian efforts aim to promote Marine Le Pen, leader of the ultra-right National Front.
In January, the DGSE — the French General Directorate for External Security — warned that Kremlin-funded hackers and cybersoldiers were trying to distort the presidential campaign.
According to the DGSE, the hackers’ actions are favoring the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, while discrediting her competitors, particularly the independent candidate Emmanuel Macron. (These two candidates are likely to face off each other in the second round of the election.)
RELATED POST: An Introduction to French Intelligence Agencies
The alarm was raised at the highest level by French intelligence services and prompted two security meetings chaired by president Hollande at the Elysee palace.
At the council of defence in early March, Hollande ordered “the mobilisation of all the state’s necessary means” to prevent “any malevolent action” from “tarnishing the campaign and the vote”.
“Prime targets could be candidates’ websites and government networks.”
No electronic voting
Electronic voting is not planned for the presidential election.
Blast from the Past
During the previous presidential election (2012), the computers of several officials at president Nicolas Sarkozy’s office were hacked.
At a conference some months later, Bernard Barbier — the DGSE’s Technical Director — revealed that the American NSA was behind the attack.
RELATED POST: NSA Hacked French President’s House: Video Back Online
Warning from Germany
Earlier this year, Bruno Kahl — the President of the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) which is the German equivalent of the DGSE– has warned that the next general German election could be targeted by Russian hackers.
“We have evidence that cyber-attacks are taking place that have no purpose other than to elicit political uncertainty,” he told the Süddeutsche Zeitung in his first interview since he was appointed.”
“The perpetrators are interested in delegitimising the democratic process as such, regardless of who that ends up helping. We have indications that [the attacks] come from the Russian region.”
However, German Intelligence Agencies have now conducted a year-long investigation searching for clear evidence of Russia’s political interference in Germany. They found ‘no conclusive evidence’.
UPDATE (March 22 2017) — In a recent interview with the German Magazine DER SPIEGEL, BND chief Bruno Kahl speaks about Turkey, a possible Russian interference in German elections, Snowden, WikiLeaks, Trump, the surveillance on journalists, human intelligence (HUMINT) and what to expect from Islamic State. Intel Today is updating the posts discussing these issues to include this new information.
Kahl: Thus far, we have no indications that Turkey is seeking to interfere in the German elections. Others are doing so.
SPIEGEL: You mean Russia. America has accused Russia of significant interference in the presidential election there last November. Could the same thing happen here?
Kahl: We should at least plan for the possibility that it could happen here. In the past, we haven’t just experienced it in Germany, but also in other regions of Europe where elections are approaching. Putin’s goal hasn’t changed: Despite Brexit and the new president in the U.S., Germany continues to support sanctions against Russia. This is something Putin would like to change. As such, it would make sense for him to make a small investment in the hope that the German election leads to change. That would be a motive.
SPIEGEL: A motive doesn’t necessarily mean that any crime has been committed.
Kahl: We have to prepare for phenomena like those in Lithuania …
SPIEGEL: … where there were accusations of rape leveled at German soldiers …
Kahl: … small bits of fake news that find their way through the Russian media before making waves in social networks here. We have observed the pattern often enough. By making it transparent, we are of course hoping that Russia will be more careful. Putin doesn’t have an interest in being caught red-handed.
SPIEGEL: What you are describing are just propaganda activities. But the Russians demonstrated years ago that they are capable of paralyzing an entire country. Estonia.
Kahl: There are reasons to believe that the attacks against the server in the German parliament were influenced by Russia. It followed the same pattern that was observed in operations targeting neighboring states.
SPIEGEL: Then it must frustrate you when the German government says that there isn’t conclusive evidence for Russian participation. The relevant report written by the BND and the German domestic intelligence agency wasn’t made public, despite initial promises to do so.
Kahl: That doesn’t frustrate me. On the one hand, there is the small gap between evidence and proof that will hold up in court. On the other, our mission remains that of getting to the bottom of the incident.
SPIEGEL: How could Russia influence the German elections, aside from the standard propaganda?
Kahl: Think for a moment about the hacking attack on German parliament. There are many possibilities for how one could influence the German campaign.
SPIEGEL: Some say that WikiLeaks is also partially controlled by the Russians. Do you have any evidence of that?
Kahl: It is, at the very least, rather conspicuous that the propaganda I have just described reaches the public through three channels: the television channel RT, the website Sputnik and the whistleblowing platform WikiLeaks.
France’s election under high cyber threat — EU Observer
‘Coup in Turkey Was Just a Welcome Pretext’ — Der Spiegel (Interview with German Intelligence Chief)
FRANCE — DGSE: ‘Hackers trying to distort the presidential campaign’ UPDATE (March 22 2017)