The US has been implicated in cyber attacks on the former French government, after spyware was found on machines belonging to officials who worked under ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy.
According to the L’Express publication in France, the malware was similar to the Flame cyber espionage tool that was seen hitting Middle Eastern nations earlier this year. Flame was believed to be the work of a nation state and the US was recently implicated in the creation of that malware too.
A number of Sarkozy’s underlings were tricked by basic social engineering techniques, which saw them click on links sent over Facebook, according to the report. Once they had done so malware was downloaded onto their machines and the attackers made their way across the network, the publication claimed, suggesting infections first appeared in May this year.
There was little information on how the infection was traced back to the US, however.
The US embassy in Paris “categorically denied” US involvement, according to the BBC.
Sarkozy himself was spared, L’Express said, whilst the US Homeland Security chief, Janet Napolitano, did not deny US involvement. “We have no greater partner than France, we have no greater ally than France… We co-operate in many security-related areas,” she said.
Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, said that should not be taken as an admission of guilt. “It’s possible that Napolitano simply doesn’t know if the USA was involved – and doesn’t want to deny something which later turns out to be true,” he said in a blog post.
“Or it’s possible that she’s not authorised to confirm or deny the US’s involvement for understandable intelligence reasons. (If you always deny everything that’s not true, it’s very easy for people to work out what is true when you refuse to deny it).”
The US has been implicated in various cyber attacks on other governments. It was reported earlier this year that it worked alongside Israel to create Stuxnet, which disrupted uranium enrichment processes in Iran.
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