The United States used spy software to hack into the French presidential office during Nicolas Sarkozy’s failed bid for re-election earlier this year, France’s cyberwarfare agency claimed today.
Insiders claim the computer virus had similarities to Flame, which was allegedly created by a U.S.-Israeli team to hack into Iran’s controversial nuclear programme. It is believed to have targeted the computers of several advisers to the former President, including Chief of Staff Xavier Musca, during the elections in May, which he lost to socialist Francois Hollande.
Lurking in the cyber shadows: France has accused the U.S. of infecting computers in Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential office with a sophisticated spyware virus during his failed attempt to win re-election in May
According to The Hill, an unnamed official told French magazine l’Express: ‘You can be on very good terms with a “friendly” country and still want to guarantee their unwavering support – especially during a transition.’
Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of Homeland Security, reportedly did not deny the allegations, but said: ‘We have no greater partner than France, we have no greater ally than France.
In line of fire: Several of Sarkozy’s advisers, including
his Chief of Staff Xavier Musca (pictured) were
allegedly targeted in May
‘We co-operate in many security-related areas. I am here to further reinforce those ties and create new ones.’ The White House did not return a request for comment from The Hill.
The alleged attack came as the United Nations issued an urgent warning in May to guard against the Flame virus, regarded as the most powerful computer bug ever unleashed, amid fears it could be used to bring countries to a standstill.
The sophisticated spyware – said to be about 100 times the size of most malicious software – was used to hack into computers in Iran, whose nuclear programme continues to cause concern around the world that it is being used to create an atomic bomb.
The Trojan bug worms its way into computer systems and is believed to turn infected machines into listening devices.
It can activate a computer’s audio system to eavesdrop on Skype calls or office chatter, take screenshots or log keystrokes, and even suck information from Bluetooth-enabled phones nearby.
At the time, Israel did little to dispute claims that it was behind the clandestine online assault.
Experts said Flame contained about 20 times as much code as Stuxnet, which attacked an Iranian uranium enrichment facility in 2010, causing centrifuges to fail.
In the interview with l’Express, Napolitano insisted Flame and Stuxnet viruses had ‘never been linked to the U.S. government.’
Reinforcing ties: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano (pictured, right, with Senator John McCain) did not reportedly deny the cyber attack, but insisted France was a ‘partner and ally’
Digital spy: According to French insiders, the virus bears the hallmarks of Flame, which targeted Iran’s nuclear programme, being inspected here by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad