From Phil Muncaster, the Register: US-sponsored snoopers hacked into the computers of the Élysée Palace earlier this year ahead of the French presidential election and lifted top secret information, using what appears to be the notorious Flame malware, a French newspaper has alleged.
The attack, which occurred in May a few days before the second round of the election, was first revealed by French media in July, although the details have been largely suppressed until now by the Palace, according to L’Express.
The paper claims hackers gained entry to the computers thanks to simple social engineering on Facebook – befriending workers at the palace and then sending a link to a fake log-in page for the Élysée intranet thanks to which they managed to harvest access credentials.
Once inside, the attackers installed malware which moved around inside the network looking for the information it wanted – infecting the machines of several senior presidential advisors including Sarkozy’s secretary general, Xavier Musca. The president himself escaped as he didn’t have a networked PC, L’Express said. . . .
[M]uch of the code recovered bears a striking resemblance to that of the infamous information-stealing Flame Trojan, which is thought to be a US-Israeli project designed to target Iranian computer systems. . . .
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.
"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.
From the Hill: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano reportedly did not deny the allegations when asked point-blank about them.
“We have no greater partner than France, we have no greater ally than France,” Napolitano reportedly answered, at the opening of an interview with l’Express. “We cooperate in many security-related areas. I am here to further reinforce those ties and create new ones.”
In the interview, Napolitano also said that the Flame and Stuxnet viruses had “never been linked to the U.S. government.”
The White House did not return a request for comment from The Hill. (photo: Jacques Brinon/AP)