Russia Suspected in Politically Motivated Cyberattacks in Italy, France

By MDL on February 18, 2017


Russia is suspected to be behind a four-month long cyber attack targeting the embassy and field offices staff email system of Italy’s Foreign Ministry last year.

The Italian government says that no classified emails or communication were compromised, but that Russian actors are suspected of being the source of the malware for this attack and for previous Foreign Ministry hacks. Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, who served as Foreign Minister at the time, was reportedly not affected because of his decision to avoid using work email for official communications.

Because only unclassified staff emails were affected, was the goal of this attack simply reconnaissance? Were these malicious actors trying to identify ways to affect the upcoming Italian election where, accordian to an article in the Guardian, “The government’s main opposition… has adopted pro-Russia positions on topics ranging from Vladimir Putin’s military intervention in Syria, to his invasion of Ukraine, to a call for Italy to lift sanctions against Russia and reassess its commitment to Nato.”?


French government officials warn that they will not accept any interference in their upcoming presidential election, saying they will retaliate if necessary.

This week, France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault declared “We will not accept any interference whatsoever in our electoral process, no more from Russia by the way than from any other state.” He continued that this would include “retaliatory measures when that is necessary, because no foreign state can influence the choice of the French.”

Richard Ferrand, a spokesperson for the En Marche! party headed by leading presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron, called for government authorities to “guarantee that there is no foreign meddling in our democracy.” Ferrand accused the Russian media of launching a “fake news” campaign on Macron after a series of sensational news reports from the Russian news agencies Russian Today and Sputnik. The En Marche! party also claims that the Macron campaign computer systems has been hit by “hundreds if not thousands” of probes originating from locations inside Russia. Izvestia, a Russian newspaper, quoted Julian Assange as saying that his organization Wikileaks has “interesting information” about Macron. Both Wikileaks and Russia were accused of working to influence the outcome of the the recent US presidential election.

According to Ferrand, Macron was targeted because “as a staunch pro-European, was a Russian target because he wanted a strong united Europe that had a major role to play in world affairs, including in the face of Moscow.”


The Guardian. Russia suspected over hacking attack on Italian foreign ministry

Reuters. Italy’s foreign ministry came under cyber attack in 2016: source

Dark Reading. Russia Suspect In Italian Ministry Hack

Reuters.  France warns Russia against meddling in election

Reuters. French election contender Macron is Russian ‘fake news’ target: party chief