How France’s Macron defeated Russian hackers with one simple trap

Despite being the victim of a “massive and coordinated” hack immediately before the French election, President-elect Emmanuel Macron is currently celebrating a landslide electoral victory over the pro-Putin, rightwing nationalist Marine Le Pen.

So what did Macron’s campaign do differently from Hillary Clinton’s campaign, which famously suffered a similar attack, likely from the same Russian operatives?

In an interview with The Daily Beast last week, the head of Macron’s digital team Mounir Mahjoubi detailed how Clinton’s hacks inspired them to not only be more vigilant in defending their cybersecurity, but also to launch a “counteroffensive” against the hackers.

The Macron campaign, like Clinton’s, was frequently targeted by phishing attacks which would send emails with links to copies of credible-looking log-in screens with subtle differences in the web addresses like using dots rather than hyphens, etc. “If you speed read the URL, you can’t make the distinction,” said Mahjoubi.

Mahjoubi described the fake sign-in page as “pixel perfect,” and once a user signs in, the hackers would then have access to all of the user’s emails.

“Every week we send to the team screen-captures of all the phishing addresses we have found during the week,” Mahjoubi explained.

But the real genius was in how Mahjoubi’s team used the hacker’s techniques against them.

“You can flood these addresses with multiple passwords and log-ins, true ones, false ones, so the people behind them use up a lot of time trying to figure them out.”

In other words, rather than giving the hackers nothing, they deluged them with so much information that the hackers had no way of verifying what was real and what was true but to waste countless hours sorting through all of the misinformation. This likely explains the unorganized dump of the nine gigabytes worth of stolen campaign emails onto the anonymous site 4chan, with the original poster expressing “hopes that the human search engine here will be able to start sifting through the contents and figure out exactly what we have here.”

The answer to that question, ultimately, seems to be a resounding “nothing,” as up to this point no incriminating evidence has been found anywhere within the dump, with France’s election campaign commission confirming that fake information had also been mingled within the “fraudulently” obtained information.

Macron is expected to be inaugurated within the week, with many political experts expecting a May 11th inauguration date.

Nathan Wellman is a Los Angeles-based journalist, author, and playwright. His less-political Youtube channel can be found here. Follow him on Twitter: @LightningWOW