Russian APT28 group also targeted French Presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron

Pierluigi Paganini April 25, 2017

The campaign of the French Presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron has been targeted by the notorious cyber espionage APT28 group.

Yesterday the Danish Government officially accused the dreaded APT28 group (aka Fancy BearPawn StormSednit, Sofacy, and Strontium) of cyber attacks against Defense Ministry’s email accounts, now DNC hackers are suspected to have targeted also the French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron.

The Russian cyber espionage APT28 group launched spear phishing attacks against the campaign of the French Presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron.

The APT28 group’s attacks against the Emmanuel Macron ‘s staff leveraged on replicas of legitimate URLs and exploited the attack technique dubbed ‘tabnabbing‘.

“Tabnabbing is a term that was originally introduced by researcher Aza Raskin.14 He describes the attack as follows: a URL in an open tab of the browser is changed to a phishing site when simple JavaScript detects that the user has moved on to another tab or is inactive for some time. When the target believes that the phishing site is the real login site of the internet service he was using, he might reenter his credentials on the phishing site.” reads the analysis shared by Trend Micro.

Emmanuel Macron Presidential campaign

The technique was used to swap inactive open tabs with an illegitimate site, in this way attackers tricked victims into providing sensitive information while thinking to visit a legitimate website.

“Pawn Storm has been using a variant of tabnabbing.15 In this attack scenario, the target gets an email supposedly coming from a website he might be interested in—maybe from a conference he is likely to visit or a news site he has subscribed to. The email has a link to a URL that looks very legitimate. When the target reads his email and clicks on the link, it will open in a new tab. This new tab will show the legitimate website of a conference or news provider after being redirected from a site under the attackers’ control. The target is likely to spend some time browsing this legitimate site. Distracted, he probably did not notice that just before the redirection, a simple script was run, changing the original webmail tab to a phishing site. When the target has finished reading the news article or conference information on the legitimate site, he returns to the tab of his webmail. He is informed that his session has expired and the site needs his credentials again. He is then likely to reenter his password and give his credentials away to the attackers. ” states the analysis.

The security experts believe the APT28 group is a sort of cyber army working for the Russian military intelligence agency GRU, it was involved in an impressive series of cyber attacks against high-profile targets, including the DNC campaign and the Bundestag.

According to the Reuters, The National Cybersecurity Agency of France (ANSSI) confirmed the cyber attacks against the Macron’s staff, but did not provide information on their origin.

The Wall Street Journal reported people involved in the Macron’s campaign confirmed that staffers received phishing emails, but claimed the attacks had failed.

“Mounir Mahjoubi, digital director of Mr. Macron’s campaign, confirmed the attempted hacking, saying that several staffers had received emails leading to the fake websites. The phishing emails were quickly identified and blocked, and it was unlikely others went undetected, Mr. Mahjoubi said.” reported the WSJ.

“We can’t be 100% sure,” he said, “but as soon as we saw the intrusion attempts, we took measures to block access.”

A representative of En Marche! has accused Russian nation-state actors of interfering with the elections in an effort to help pro-Moscow candidates.

“On March 15, someone used the name Johny Pinch and a fake Paris street address to register the name, according to public internet records. On April 12, someone using the same information registered, the records show.” continues the WSJ.

“Those addresses were both hosted on internet protocol address blocks associated with Pawn Storm, Trend Micro’s Mr. Hacquebord said.”

According to Trend Micro, hackers set up a fake En Marche phishing site in mid-March, the researchers also spotted a phishing domain apparently set up to target the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) political foundation in Germany.

In October 2016, the TV5Monde director-general told BBC broadcaster that his TV was almost destroyed by a targeted cyber attack conducted by the Russian APT28 group

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Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs –Emmanuel Macron, APT28)

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