- The Washington Times - Friday, June 2, 2017

Whoever hacked French President Emmanuel Macron’s campaign ahead of last month’s election left no clues leading back to Russia, the head of France’s computer security agency said Thursday, casting doubts on earlier claims of Kremlin involvement.

An investigation of the intrusion suffered by Mr. Macron’s centrist En Marche party on the eve of his election last month has uncovered zero evidence attributable to Russia, Guillaume Poupard, the head of the National Cybersecurity Agency of France (ANSSI), told the Associated Press on Thursday.

The hack “was so generic and simple that it could have been practically anyone,” he told the AP.

The simplicity involved in hacking En Marche “means that we can imagine that it was a person who did this alone,” Mr. Poupard continued. “They could be in any country.”

“It really could be anyone. It could even be an isolated individual,” he added.

Mr. Macron ultimately defeated far-right candidate Marine Le Pen during last month’s run-off election, but the race was marred by the eleventh hour publication of emails purportedly stolen from En Marche, the likes of which quickly provoked comparisons to the hacking campaign befallen last year by former U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee.

While the U.S. has widely pegged last year’s attacks on a division of GRU, Russia’s military intelligence, Mr. Poupard said there’s no evidence linking the En Marche breach to the same outfit, also known by names including “APT28,” “Fancy Bear” and “Pawn Storm.”

“To say ‘Macron Leaks’ was APT28, I’m absolutely incapable today of doing that,” he told the AP this week. “I have absolutely no element to say whether it is true or false.”

Vitali Kremez, a director of research at Flashpoint, an U.S. cybersecurity firm, previously told Reuters that he believed APT28 was behind the En Marche breach on account of similarities between that attack and ones waged during last year’s White House race. Flashpoint did not immediately respond to requests to comment on Mr. Poupard’s findings Friday.

Regardless of the threat actor responsible, Mr. Poupard said that cyberspace is on the verge of erupting into “permanent war” as evidenced by recent attacks.

“With what we see today — attacks that are criminal, from states, often for espionage or fraud but also more and more for sabotage or destruction — we are getting closer, clearly, to a state of war, a state of war that could be more complicated, probably, than those we’ve known until now,” he said.

“Unfortunately, we now know the reality that we are going to live with forever, probably.”

Moscow has previously denied hacking En Marche, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign and the DNC. Weighing in on Thursday this week, however, President Vladimir Putin conceded that “patriotic hackers” may have targeted last year’s White House race “to fight against those who say bad things about Russia.”

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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