France’s cyber-security watchdog is briefing the country’s presidential candidates on hacking threats, drawing lessons from attacks that have disrupted the U.S. election campaign. As France prepares for elections less than six months after the U.S. chooses its own head of state, the National Defense and Security Secretariat will host some 30 campaign representatives Wednesday from parties including the anti-immigration National Front, the center-right Republicans and the governing Socialists. With hacking emerging as an issue in the U.S. presidential race, French security chiefs want their own politicians to know they’re also potential targets of electronic warfare. “We’ll give them technical pointers to identify attacks like those that took place in the U.S., as well as an overview of threats and how to fend them off,” Guillaume Poupard, who heads the national security agency’s cyber-defense unit, said in an interview Tuesday in Paris. He’ll host the campaign teams at the unit’s headquarters in a military compound just behind Napoleon’s tomb.
Attacks on organizations including the Democratic National Committee have roiled political campaigns in the U.S. this year. Intelligence agencies are “confident that the Russian government directed” the hacking of political operations and leaked stolen material in order to interfere with the Nov. 8 election, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security said this month.
France, which had its own spat with Russia in October over the bombing of Aleppo, Syria, is seeking to prevent similar acts of subversion from affecting its election which concludes in May. There are about a dozen candidates for the French presidency at this stage, as the Republicans prepare for a two-round primary on Nov. 20 and 27. The Socialist Party will elect its candidate in January.
“We’ll teach them how to spot some key markers like bits of computer code that may be deposited into files on a network,” Poupard said. “We’ve been coaching companies for years about cybersecurity — we’ll recommend similar things to the politicians.”