U.S. blamed for spying on French government with Flame malware

By on November 21, 2012, 4:00 PM

According to The Telegram and sources close to French news outlet L'Express, politically-driven U.S. hackers were responsible for a cyberattack that occurred just days before French voters cast their ballots in April. Those sources claim hackers were able to infiltrate French networks and obtain important documents and strategic plans of then French President Nicolas Sarkozy. 

In order to pull off the attack, the hackers leveraged their social engineering skills. First, they used Facebook to identify individuals close to Sarkozy and his team. Those hackers then crafted a bogus yet effectively indistinguishable clone of Elysee Palace's website and sent phishing emails to lure Sarkozy's advisers into logging on. When Sarkozy's trusted cohorts attempted to log on to the fake page, hackers recorded their passwords and subsequently used them to access the real palace website.

The hackers also planted a "powerful worm" on palace computers. According to BBC's information, the worm used to subvert French computers was Flame -- a highly sophisticated bug based on Stuxnet. Flame and Stuxnet are thought to be U.S. government sponsored tools which were used to spy and wreak havoc on Iranian government PCs.

Armed with credentials and malware, hackers were able to obtain "secret notes", plans of strategy and a myriad of sensitive documents. Flame itself is capable of screenshots, audio recordings and much, much more.

Because of Flame's apparent involvement, sources seem to be presuming the attack was led by the U.S. government and not just a random group of hackers. Although the true motive for this attack is unknown, sources hypothesize it may have been to curry favor with the newly elected French administration.

The U.S. Embassy located Paris denied the publication's claims by stating, "We categorically refute allegations of unidentified sources, published in an article in the Express". Embassy Spokesman Mitchell Moss added, "France is one of our best allies. Our cooperation is remarkable in the areas of intelligence, law enforcement, and cyber defense. It has never been so good and remains essential to achieve our common fight against extremist threats."

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