Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Attacks/Breaches

U.S. Denies Malware Attack Against France

Unnamed French officials accuse the U.S. government of infecting government systems with the Flame espionage malware during French elections.

Did the U.S. government launch a "cyberattaque" against French government computers in the run-up to the 2012 French presidential election?

That allegation was leveled at the U.S. government by unnamed French officials, according to a Tuesday report in the weekly French newspaper L'Express. It reported that computers belonging to top advisers to then French president Nicolas Sarkozy had been hacked using the Flame cyberespionage malware, which was designed to be used in highly targeted attacks.

French officials said that the attacks occurred between April 22, 2012, when the first round of the country's most recent presidential elections was held, and May 6, 2012, when a runoff was held, which resulted in socialist Francois Hollande beating Sarkozy. The officials said the attackers had first conducted reconnaissance using Facebook, "friended" Sarkozy advisers, then sent them phishing emails that led to a fake version of the French government's intranet, which was used to capture the targets' intranet usernames and passwords.

U.S. officials rejected the allegations. "We categorically deny the allegations by unnamed sources that the U.S. government participated in a cyber attack against the French government," said Department of Homeland Security spokesman Matthew Chandler via email. "France is one of our strongest allies. Our outstanding cooperation in intelligence sharing, law enforcement and cyber defense has never been stronger, and remains essential in successfully combating the common threat of extremism."

[ As the Gaza military crisis escalates, so has the response from hackers. See Anonymous Steps Into Gaza Crisis. ]

How reliable are the Flame allegations reported in L'Express? Consider that when Kaspersky Lab first detailed Flame in late May 2012, it said that the malware had been used against Iran (in 189 attacks), Israel and Palestine (98), Sudan (32), Syria (30), Lebanon (18), Saudi Arabia (10) and Egypt (5). But it reported no attacks against French targets.

Another fact that makes the French allegations appear suspect is that in the online realm, accurately attributing attacks to a specific source is incredibly difficult, and any claims to the contrary are typically discounted unless backed by substantial, detailed evidence, produced by a reliable source. L'Express detailed no such evidence. Furthermore, while the command-and-control servers used in attacks may be traced back to a specific country -- such as the United States -- it's easy to rent hosting space or use compromised PCs in that country to launch attacks, thus covering one's tracks and complicating efforts to accurately ascertain attackers' true location or location.

L'Express also published excerpts from its wide-ranging interview with Janet Napolitano, the U.S. secretary of Homeland Security, who was asked directly if the U.S. government had authorized a cyber-espionage campaign against the French government. "Let me answer the following," she said (her comments have been translated from French to English). "We have no more important partner than France, we have no ally greater than France. We cooperate in many areas related to security. And I'm here to further strengthen these links and develop new ones."

Napolitano was also asked if it wasn't ironic that while the United States has been sounding alarms over the growing amount of malware that's targeting U.S. government system, it also commissioning the Stuxnet and Flame cyber-espionage malware used against Iran. Napolitano, however, pled official ignorance. "These programs were never attributed in any way to the U.S. government. Beyond this point, your question presupposes a yes-or-no answer, while my job is to protect the civilian networks using all the technology we have at our disposal. We seek to ensure a high level of security -- the highest possible. To do this, our cybersecurity budget was increased by 40% last year and president's recommendation for the coming year is that it should increase by 75%."

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
//Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
PJS880
PJS880,
User Rank: Ninja
12/10/2012 | 2:57:26 AM
re: U.S. Denies Malware Attack Against France
If the United States decided to hack the French Government, we most likely would not be reading about it. Furthermore if the US was performing reconnaissance I would hope their sources would be more reliable than Facebook. Just because the malware used is specific for high targets, doesn't implicate nor point at the US. Sounds like the french newspaper needed to sell some newspaper, because I haven't read one fact backing their claim.

Paul Sprague
InformationWeek Contributor
Maczin
Maczin,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/23/2012 | 2:32:57 PM
re: U.S. Denies Malware Attack Against France
A while ago it has been revealed in the Washington Post: FLAME was developed by the United States and shared with Israel. Security analysts say it was a highly sophisticated malware program. The FLAME windows malware shows why President Hollande should develop a French Operating System based on Linux, as some nations in Asia did. Closed source operating systems are a high risk for national security.
Edge-DRsplash-10-edge-articles
I Smell a RAT! New Cybersecurity Threats for the Crypto Industry
David Trepp, Partner, IT Assurance with accounting and advisory firm BPM LLP,  7/9/2021
News
Attacks on Kaseya Servers Led to Ransomware in Less Than 2 Hours
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  7/7/2021
Commentary
It's in the Game (but It Shouldn't Be)
Tal Memran, Cybersecurity Expert, CYE,  7/9/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Practical Network Security Approaches for a Multicloud, Hybrid IT World
The report covers areas enterprises should focus on for their multicloud/hybrid cloud security strategy: -increase visibility over the environment -learning cloud-specific skills -relying on established security frameworks -re-architecting the network
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2022-30333
PUBLISHED: 2022-05-09
RARLAB UnRAR before 6.12 on Linux and UNIX allows directory traversal to write to files during an extract (aka unpack) operation, as demonstrated by creating a ~/.ssh/authorized_keys file. NOTE: WinRAR and Android RAR are unaffected.
CVE-2022-23066
PUBLISHED: 2022-05-09
In Solana rBPF versions 0.2.26 and 0.2.27 are affected by Incorrect Calculation which is caused by improper implementation of sdiv instruction. This can lead to the wrong execution path, resulting in huge loss in specific cases. For example, the result of a sdiv instruction may decide whether to tra...
CVE-2022-28463
PUBLISHED: 2022-05-08
ImageMagick 7.1.0-27 is vulnerable to Buffer Overflow.
CVE-2022-28470
PUBLISHED: 2022-05-08
marcador package in PyPI 0.1 through 0.13 included a code-execution backdoor.
CVE-2022-1620
PUBLISHED: 2022-05-08
NULL Pointer Dereference in function vim_regexec_string at regexp.c:2729 in GitHub repository vim/vim prior to 8.2.4901. NULL Pointer Dereference in function vim_regexec_string at regexp.c:2729 allows attackers to cause a denial of service (application crash) via a crafted input.