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  1. ITV Report

The battle to prevent hacking in the French elections

The hacking scandal that surrounded the US election has left the world aware of the influence those who leak information obtained through hacking can have.

It has been reported that a growing number of US politicians are now using the latest encrypted messaging apps to try to keep their communications safe.

Now the French government has scheduled a special defence council on the issue, after reports of evidence that Russia is supporting the far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen ahead of their election in April.

Security fears now surround the upcoming French presidential election. Credit: ITV News

It is perhaps the most significant French election as the outcome of the voting may reveal if the populist tide is still rising or if Trump and Brexit were the high watermark.

But there is one party, one candidate - Marine Le Pen - who has the enthusiastic support of Moscow.

After what happened in the recent US election, Le Pen's Russian backing is worrying leaders right across Europe.

Hillary Clinton's party headquarters was hacked and compromised so badly three senior figures resigned and her campaign never really recovered.

Security specialists in Paris have been advising the presidential candidates how to keep the hackers out and say a repeat there is all too likely.

Marine Le Pen has enthusiastic backing by Russia which is worrying leaders across Europe. Credit: AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Cyber security consultant Yul Bahat said: "The goal of the hackers is not to hack the elections it is to hack public opinion.

"They want to find out embarrassing information and then publish it on the internet to make the political party look bad."

The French National Data Security Agency are working hard with the political parties because the whole of French politics could be undermined if a foreign state were to take sides in the election.

Emmanuel Macron is the new centrist favourite to win the presidency and he is already seeing allegations about his sex life aired on Russian websites.

Mounir Mahjoubi, head of IT in the Macron campaign team, said he expects the government to have "active listening" measures during the campaign as he said the US hacking could be repeated.

Presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron is already seeing allegations about him appear on Russian websites. Credit: AP Photo/Michel Euler

Two years ago Russian hackers targeted French TV channel TV5 Monde, taking all 12 channels off of the air in a massive hack.

To this day no one is completely sure why they were targeted.

Yves Bigot, editor in chief of the channel, said it could have been a demonstration of their abilities to say "yes we can put down a TV channel in nearly 200 countries at the very same second".

The cyber battle is already well underway with Wikileaks threatening revelations that would damage Emmanuel Macron, fake-news sites pushing conspiracy theories from the fringes into the mainstream.

It is a battle that may have changed the course of the US election and could yet do the same in France.