France denounces cyberattacks blamed on Moscow

Suspected Russian cyberattacks on the French presidential campaign are "unacceptable", France's foreign minister said Sunday, adding it was clear that pro-Europe candidate Emmanuel Macron was being targeted.

France denounces cyberattacks blamed on Moscow
Photo: Thomas Samson/AFP

A spokesman for Macron, who is currently riding high in the polls, has accused Moscow of being behind a flurry of cyberattacks on his campaign website and email servers over the past month.

“It's enough to see which candidates, Marine Le Pen or Francois Fillon, Russia expresses preference for in the French electoral campaign,” Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said in an interview with Journal du Dimanche.

“Whereas Emmanuel Macron, who is pro-Europe, is being targeted by cyberattacks,” he added. “This form of interference in French democratic life is unacceptable and I denounce it.”

Le Pen, of the far-right National Front, is anti-immigration and anti-European Union, while Fillon is the conservative Republicans candidate who is pushing for closer ties with Moscow.

“Russia is the first to say that non-interference in domestic affairs is acardinal rule and I understand that. Well, France won't accept its choices being dictated to it either,” he added.

France warned Russia Wednesday against meddling in the elections, after a spokesman for Macron — the 39-year-old centrist former economy minister — pointed the finger of blame at Moscow.

The allegations come in the midst of a furore over Russia's alleged interference in the US electoral campaign that has forced out one of President Donald Trump's top aides.

US intelligence agencies had already accused Russian intelligence of hacking Democratic Party emails that embarrassed Trump's rival Hillary Clinton.

Earlier this week, Ayrault told French parliament: “After what happened inthe United States, it is our responsibility to take all steps necessary to ensure that the integrity of our democratic process is fully respected”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country will hold a general election in September, has also voiced fears that Moscow could try to influence the vote through cyberattacks or disinformation.

A special meeting of the French Defense Council is planned next week to strengthen measures to protect against this kind of threat.


Internet users in France warned about bilingual cyber scam

Internet users in France have been warned against a "half French, half English" hacking scam which has been tricking people out of cash across the country.

Internet users in France warned about bilingual cyber scam
Photo: AFP
The scam works by opening a window on your screen warning that the computer is blocked and private information is at risk, reported French consumer magazine 60 million du consommateurs
The window asks the user to contact a help number where they can speak to someone who will unblock the computer for a fee. In addition to the text, a “half French, half English” warning is played as a voice message when the window opens.

The number of such instances has been on the rise in recent months and several regional newspapers have reported similar stories.

One of the victims of the cyber attack told 60 million du consommateurs that she spoke to a man who told her the problem was very serious, using the term “level 5 attack”.
He then told her that for €149.90 the problem could be solved. Once she agreed, he took remote control of her computer for 45 minutes, before telling her the virus was gone. But five days later, €450 disappeared from her bank account.
“It’s really a simple window. The computer is neither infected nor blocked,” François-Xavier Masson, the head of the France's organisation to counter cyber crime OCLCTIC, told 60 million du consommateurs.
“The victim will either pay for a service that is useless, or in a worst case scenario the scammers will encourage the victim to download software that will take control of his device or even steal personal data from him. Smartphones are also the target of these unscrupulous companies.”
Computer users are advised to turn off their computers immediately if they believe they have been the victim of a scam.