DNC Hacking Group Aims Sights at Macron

Infamous Russia-linked cyber-espionage group Pawn Storm is actively targeting the election campaign of French presidential frontrunner Emmanuel Macron and German political organizations linked to the two main parties there, according to Trend Micro.

The cybersecurity giant has been tracking the group – also known as APT28, Fancy Bear, Sofacy and Sednit – for several years and claimed a recent change in tactics has seen it try to influence public opinion ahead of major elections.

This happened most notably when Democratic Party officials’ emails were leaked via WikiLeaks ahead of the US presidential election, which was ultimately won by Putin’s favored candidate, Donald Trump.

In a new report, Two Years of Pawn Storm, Trend Micro reveals that the same group has registered multiple phishing domains for the Macron campaign, as well as two Germany political organizations: the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, associated with Angela Merkel’s CDU party, and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, associated with the SPD.

The report also warns of APT28’s high level of sophistication. Much of its work is carried out by credential phishing, allowing operatives to break into targets’ webmail accounts. However, those phishing emails are composed in flawless English and easily evade spam filters.

The group also relies on spear phishing, DNS switching and so-called “tabnabbing” techniques to snare its victims.

However, not all of those targeted are infected with second stage malware such as X Agent. Some are only subjected to an initial level of reconnaissance filtering, unless they are deemed high value targets.

The group is prolific, maintaining a running list of thousands of targets, and has run as many as 50 phishing campaigns at the same time over a nine-month period, Trend Micro claimed.

Although the group’s links to the Kremlin are hard to prove, the report goes as far as saying its aims are “allied” to those of Russia’s.

That would certainly fit with its targeting of Macron, a noted sceptic of the Putin administration unlike his rival, the far right Marine Le Pen.

The German Bundestag elections, meanwhile, are slated for September.

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