French authorities have warned political parties of potential cyberattacks in the lead-up to the May elections, as the US accuses hackers with Russian ties of being involved in its election process.
While the National Agency for the Security of Information Systems (L’Agence nationale de la sécurité des systèmes d’information or ANSSI) refrained from pointing to a specific group or country that would gain from tampering with the election, ANSSI director Guillaume Poupard did mention that cyberattacks could be used as a tool.
“We’re clearly not up against people who are throwing punches just to see what happens. There’s a real strategy that includes cyber [attacks], interference and leaked information,” said Poupard. “These are people whom we’re obviously following closely. Even if we can’t be sure that they’re the same, they’re attackers who regularly come knocking on our ministers’ doors.”
With the FBI recently showing cause for concern regarding Russia being involved in the 2016 elections, the European Commission has also voiced its concerns regarding the Kremlin’s influence in future EU presidential elections. Poupard believes political parties could be vulnerable, as they operate as small business and their security mechanisms and protocols could be prone to spearphishing and other forms of cyberattack.
“Political parties and campaign staff are particularly vulnerable to hackers with tactics likely to include spear phishing and website attacks. Fundamentally, political parties, like small and medium-size businesses… are not equipped to deal with the situation alone,” according to Poupard.
With five month until elections, ANSSI director said that, while the country has faced cyberattacks in the past, they’re closely monitoring potential attackers, although there’s no guarantee that they’re following the right leads.