How France beat the Macron hack

A Kremlin-affiliated hacking group known as Fancy Bear, the same Russian operatives responsible for hacks of American Democratic Party's campaign officials before last year's presidential election, is suspected of carrying out a massive leak against French president-elect Emmanuel Macron, released two days before he defeated his far-right, pro-Putin opponent Marine Le Pen.

But unlike in the U.S., where Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton said Moscow's "weaponization of information" compromised her campaign and ultimately led to her defeat, French voters responded to this hacking controversy with mostly a shrug.

"If these documents contain revelations, Le Monde will of course publish them after having investigated them, respecting our journalistic and ethical rules, and without allowing ourselves to be exploited by the publishing calendar of anonymous actors," said a statement published by Le Monde newspaper regarding its decision to abide by French law that banned media coverage of any campaign statements as of Friday night.

RELATED: France celebrates Emmanuel Macron's victory

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France celebrates Emmanuel Macron's victory
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France celebrates Emmanuel Macron's victory
Supporters of French President Elect Emmanuel Macron celebrate near the Louvre museum after early results were announced in the second round vote in the 2017 presidential elections in Paris, France, May 7, 2017. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
Outgoing French President Francois Hollande (L) and President-elect Emmanuel Macron attend a ceremony to mark the end of World War II at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, May 8, 2017. REUTERS/Stephane De Sakutin/Pool
French President-elect Emmanuel Macron attends a ceremony to mark the end of World War II at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, May 8, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Mori/Pool
Supporters of French presidential election candidate for the En Marche ! movement Emmanuel Macron wave French national flags as they celebrate in front of the Pyramid at the Louvre Museum in Paris on May 7, 2017, following the announcement of the results of the second round of the French presidential election. Emmanuel Macron was elected French president on May 7, 2017 in a resounding victory over far-right Front National (FN - National Front) rival after a deeply divisive campaign, initial estimates showed. (Photo by Mehdi Taamallah/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Outgoing French President Francois Hollande (R) and President-elect Emmanuel Macron attend a ceremony to mark the end of World War II at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, May 8, 2017. REUTERS/Stephane De Sakutin/Pool
French President-elect Emmanuel Macron celebrates on the stage May 7, 2017 at his victory rally near the Louvre in Paris, France. Picture taken May 7, 2017. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
French President elect Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Trogneux celebrate May 7, 2017 on the stage at his victory rally near the Louvre in Paris, France. Picture taken May 7, 2017. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
French President-elect Emmanuel Macron celebrates on the stage at his victory rally near the Louvre in Paris, France May 7, 2017. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
French President elect Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Trogneux celebrate on the stage at his victory rally near the Louvre in Paris, France May 7, 2017. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier
French President-elect Emmanuel Macron celebrates on the stage at his victory rally near the Louvre in Paris, France May 7, 2017. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
Supporters of former elected president Emmanuel Macron celebrating his winning at Louvre Pyramid square in Paris on May 7, 2017 (Photo by David Cordova/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 07: Supporters celebrate at a rally for Emmanuel Macron, outside the Louvre on May 7, 2017 in Paris, France. (Photo by Gyori Antoine /Corbis via Getty Images)
French President-elect Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Trogneux celebrate on the stage at his victory rally near the Louvre after results in the 2017 presidential election in Paris, France May 7, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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The timing of the Macron leak meant that French media virtually ignored the document dump. Instead, the information mostly played out its short life online, apparently picking up steam by non-French people, under the hashtag #MacronGate. The documents were, in fact, first published on social networks by Jack Posobiec, a pro-Trump propagandist.

Awarding no time to either defending or denouncing them, the media blackout meant that the data dump was quickly marginalized, prevented from obtaining "whistleblowing" status or sowing mass confusion among the public. According to initial reviews, the massive dump contained fairly mundane material, such as personal and professional emails, memos about the weather, unremarkable campaign financing contracts, mixed in with a sprinkle of fake documents, said the election commission during a meeting on Saturday.

Julien Berrebi, a resident of the Parisian suburb of Ivry-sur-Seine, who voted for Macron in order to block Le Pen from taking power, said that few French voters saw or cared about the leaks, having already been over-saturated by the political drama of an unusually climactic campaign in the last two weeks.

"It wasn't on TV so the hacks didn't really make much noise. Plus, it was the end of the campaign," said Berrebi.

The French presidential campaigns, officially only five weeks long and involving multiple parties, is distinctly more low-key than the American election season. Candidates need to gather only 500 signatures of support from about 47,000 elected representatives in order to qualify. French law limits donations to 16.8 million euros ($18.39 million) for the first round, and another 5 million euros ($5.5 million) for those who make it to the second round. Candidates can only make televised statements that are subject to strict length and editing rules.

By comparison, the U.S. 2016 elections lasted a full 597 days and had Hillary Clinton spending a hefty $1.2 billion and Donald Trump $647 million in their campaigns.

France's relaxed political atmosphere might also be the reason that French people, who are subject to a deluge of "fake news" on social media, are less susceptible to actually clicking and sharing those stories when compared to their American counterparts, according to a report by Oxford University researchers.

The report found that "French voters are sharing better quality information than what many U.S. voters shared and almost as much quality news and information as German users share," according to the study by the Oxford Internet Institute. "French voters are sharing better quality information than what many U.S. voters shared, and almost as much quality news and information as German users share."

Nonetheless, France has been fiercely preparing for what the National Cyber-security Agency classified as "high risk" for cyber attacks. The French foreign ministry decided to cancel online voting for citizens residing abroad for the upcoming parliamentary elections in June.

RELATED: A look at the French election

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France election between Macron and Le Pen
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France election between Macron and Le Pen
French presidential election candidate Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche !, or Onwards !, casts his ballot to vote in the second round of 2017 French presidential election, as his wife Brigitte Trogneux looks on at a polling station in Le Touquet, France, May 7, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Feferberg/Pool
REFILE - CORRECTING BYLINE Marine Le Pen, French National Front (FN) political party candidate for French 2017 presidential election, casts her ballot in the second round of 2017 French presidential election at a polling station in Henin-Beaumont, France, May 7, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
A woman casts her vote during the second round of the 2017 French presidential election at a polling station inside the Lycee Francais Charles de Gaulle school, in London, Britain May 7, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
A voter leaves a booth during the second round of the 2017 French presidential election at a polling station inside the Lycee Francais Charles de Gaulle school, in London, Britain May 7, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
People stand in voting booths during the second round of the 2017 French presidential election at a polling station inside the Lycee Francais Charles de Gaulle school, in London, Britain May 7, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
French presidential election candidate Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche !, or Onwards ! greets supporters as leaves a polling station during the the second round of 2017 French presidential election, in Le Touquet, France, May 7, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
Marine Le Pen, French National Front (FN) political party candidate for French 2017 presidential election, exits a polling booth in the second round of 2017 French presidential election at a polling station in Henin-Beaumont, France, May 7, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
French expats queue outside the Lycee Francais Charles de Gaulle to cast their vote, in a polling station inside the school, in the second round of the 2017 French presidential election, in London, Britain May 7, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
A woman walks past candidate election posters at the Lycee Francais Charles de Gaulle polling station , during the second round of the 2017 French presidential election, in London, Britain May 7, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
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Macron has accused Kremlin-backed news sites and state-affiliated hackers of attempting to derail his campaign in order to sway Sunday's voter in favor of Macron's pro-Putin opponent Marine Le Pen. Trend Micro, a Tokyo-based cybersecurity company, released a report last month detailing the activities of the Russian-affiliated Fancy Bear in targeting Macron and his team. It said that the group has, for more than a year and continuing until today, been targeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel's party, which is up for re-election in September against far-right AfD (Alternative for Germany) party.

The takeaway from last weekend's data hack is that information warfare will continue to remain a critical part of modern political campaigning, said Itay Glick, CEO of the cybersecurity company Vitero, which has distributors in Europe.

"It seems that somebody, or some groups, are trying to get all the possible information on politicians, but this will not be the last hack of an elected official," said Glick.

The post How France Beat The Macron Hack appeared first on Vocativ.

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