• Foreign interference, attempts to manipulate opinion on social networks and hacking actions have increased in recent years in most election campaigns.

  • “The presidential elections have always been the target of destabilization operations, and this long before the arrival of the Internet and social networks.

    But the advent of digital technology greatly simplifies and amplifies this phenomenon, ”notes Gérôme Billois, cybersecurity expert for the Wavestone firm.

  • The public authorities seem to have taken the measure of the cyberthreats weighing on the presidential election of 2022, and created in early October a French agency to fight against digital interference, called Viginum.

The 2022 presidential election is fast approaching, with, as always, its share of rebounds and uncertainties.

Four months from the election deadline, the main concern of the public authorities is to preserve "the integrity of the ballot", in the face of the various threats hanging over the campaign.

Foreign digital interference, attempts to manipulate opinion on social media and hacking actions have increased in recent years in most election campaigns around the world.

The French presidential poll will be no exception to the rule.

“The presidential elections have always been the target of destabilization operations, and this long before the arrival of the Internet and social networks.

But the advent of digital technology greatly simplifies and amplifies this phenomenon.

The precedents observed during the American electoral campaigns clearly show that the presidential election of 2022 has no reason to be spared by these threats ", notes Gérôme Billois, cybersecurity expert for the Wavestone cabinet, co-author of the report on" the cybersecurity of the 2022 campaign ”.

Hacking of accounts, infiltration of internal mailboxes ...

A few months before the election, hackers are already trying to infiltrate the computer systems of the protagonists of the campaign, and carry out cyber attacks of a political nature. "Faced with this central event in French democratic life, hackers will quickly pre-position themselves and start their recognition actions to be ready to strike when the opportune moment comes, that is to say just before the ballot, at the last moment, ”explains the cybersecurity expert.

As was the case in 2017, the 2022 presidential election will likely be the target of digital attacks. “The biggest cyber threat is data breaches and internal document leaks. Hacked e-mails, confidential candidate notes revealed… Like what happened with Hillary Clinton during the American presidential election in 2016, or with the “MacronLeaks” in 2017 ”, explains Fabrice Epelboin, professor at Sciences-Po Paris, social media specialist.

The "MacronLeaks", named after some 20,000 emails linked to Emmanuel Macron's campaign - which had been broadcast in 2017 two days before the vote in the second round - had ultimately had little impact on the presidential issue.

But these leaks - which it seems would be of Russian origin - had nonetheless marked the spirits.

“It was all a bit rude at the time.

Today's techniques are much more sophisticated.

Can you imagine the impact if tomorrow, all of Macron's exchanges on WhatsApp or Telegram were unveiled?

It would have a phenomenal explosion, and the electoral campaign would take on a whole new dimension, ”notes Fabrice Epelboin.

"Attempts at foreign interference will increase"

In addition to these major risks of cyberattacks, there are manipulation campaigns on social networks, which are growing from ballot to ballot. Attempts at foreign interference therefore represent one of the main threats to the upcoming presidential election. "It has been around for years - we saw it with Russian interference during the US presidential election or during the Brexit referendum - but it is a phenomenon that is growing in importance, and in sophistication from year to year. », Notes the social media specialist. "Many States find interests in playing this game to destabilize the power in place. Given the current economic, political and geostrategic challenges, it will probably be necessary to expect in the coming weeks - if this is not already the case -,to undergo this kind of external manipulation ”.

The public authorities seem today to have taken the measure of this threat. The state services, which are preparing for a high-risk presidential election, created in early October a French agency to fight against digital interference, called Viginum. His goal ? "Identify and document the phenomena of the propagation of clearly malicious content, which have a foreign origin and result from inauthentic behavior", such as the use of fake accounts on social networks, detailed last June Stéphane Bouillon, Secretary General of the Defense and National Security (SGDSN), on which Viginum depends.

Detecting and identifying foreign interference, spotting the productions of "troll farms" in order to preserve the integrity of the upcoming ballot, this is also what certain platforms, including Facebook, have committed to.

"Thanks to a dedicated team and artificial intelligence, we try to flush out unauthentic behaviors coordinated on the network to expose them and thus render them ineffective", explained Ben Nimmo, global manager of Facebook in charge of disinformation campaigns, during of a webinar in October which

20 Minutes

was able to attend.

For the moment, Facebook France has indicated that it has not yet detected "evidence of attempted interference".

False accounts, fake news… Attempts at manipulation already at work

Beyond the risk of manipulation from abroad, internal threats of manipulation of opinion - from lobbies, political parties or simple activists - also take a preponderant place in the campaign. Malicious actors benefit from a whole range of techniques to disrupt the electoral process. Infox, or fake news, which is going viral on social networks, easily occupies the first place of these disinformation tools. One of the most striking examples of fake news, during an election period, is certainly the false information disseminated in May 2017, on the morning of the traditional debate between the winners of the first round, claiming that Emmanuel Macron was concealing an offshore account in the Bahamas.

Animated mapping of #MacronGate on its alleged hidden account.

So you have all the elements.

pic.twitter.com/XNeUjnAJA7

- Nicolas Vanderbiest (@Nico_VanderB) May 4, 2017

Other techniques to manipulate opinion - what is called astroturfing - have also been developed on social networks. Besides the deepfakes (manipulation of the image thanks to artificial intelligence), which the Trump camp used extensively during the last American elections to destabilize its great rival Joe Biden, the tactic of "fake accounts" remains probably the most formidable. Very recently, on the sidelines of the primary of environmentalists, a network of fake Twitter profiles, posing as feminist, environmental or anti-racist activists supporting “wokism”, was thus brought to light. The trolls behind these fake profiles have even gone so far as to make convincing photo montages of fake militant works, notes France Inter, which revealed the case.The objective is to discredit part of the radical left. There is no doubt that this kind of destabilization operations will multiply in the coming weeks ...

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  • By the Web

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  • Cyber ​​attack

  • Presidential election 2022

  • Piracy

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