U.S. Government Accused of Cyber Attack on France

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L'Express is claiming that the U.S. Government hacked French government computers during this past spring's French presidential election in which Francois Hollande defeated Nicolas Sarkozy.

"The hackers that hit Sarkozy's team used both malware and social engineering techniques to get access to 'secret notes' and 'strategic plans,' L'Express said on Tuesday," writes ZDNet's Jo Best. "'It's the work of a real pro, and worthy of the last James Bond film. And, as is often the case with this type of attack, human negligence was at the heart of the catastrophe,' it added."

"Sources told the publication the hackers passed themselves off as friends of people working for the presidential palace, then invited them to connect to the Palace’s intranet via a false link," writes IT PRO's Jane McCallion. "The attackers were then able to retrieve the user’s log-in details and enter the governmental network 'in complete confidence.' Using the stolen details, the hackers allegedly deployed a spyware Trojan similar to the Flame malware, which affected computers of the Iranian Oil Ministry."

"According to the paper and its internal sources, the French information security agency (ANSSI) was in charge of cleaning up the computer and securing the network after the breach, and it took them several days to do it," writes Help Net Security's Zeljka Zorz. "They suspect the U.S. to be behind the attack because Flame is widely believed to be the brain-child of U.S. and Israeli researchers and because of the general sophistication of the attack."

"As to why the US may have been looking to infiltrate the networks of one of its allies, the report speculates that Sarkozy was instrumental in signing a number of key deals with Middle Eastern companies during his tenure," writes The Register's Phil Muncaster. "'You can be on good terms with a ‘friendly country’ and still wish to ensure its continued support, especially in a period of political transition,' an unnamed official told the paper."

"U.S. officials rejected the allegations," writes InformationWeek's Nicolas Sarkozy. "'We categorically deny the allegations by unnamed sources that the U.S. government participated in a cyber attack against the French government,' said Department of Homeland Security spokesman Matthew Chandler via email. 'France is one of our strongest allies. Our outstanding cooperation in intelligence sharing, law enforcement and cyber defense has never been stronger, and remains essential in successfully combating the common threat of extremism.'"