US Alerted France of Russian Cyber Attacks During Presidential Election

The U.S. informed French officials that Russia had hacked France’s computer networks during the country’s presidential election before the cyber attacks became public, a U.S. national security official told Congress Thursday.

“We had become aware of Russian activity,” National Security Agency Director Admiral Mike Rogers testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee. “We had talked to our French counterparts and gave them a heads up,” Rodgers said. He added the U.S. offered to help French officials.

France’s Macron targeted

France’s election campaign commission said Saturday “a significant amount of data,” some of it likely fake, was leaked on social networks after a cyber attack on the presidential campaign of centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron.

The leak came 36 hours before France’s runoff election Sunday in which Macron beat far right candidate Marine Le Pen.

French election officials said the leaked data apparently came from the computer systems and email accounts of Macron and some of his campaign managers.

Rogers compared the cyber attacks on Macron’s campaign to those in the U.S. on the Democratic National Committee and a close aide to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton before the November presidential election that was won by Donald Trump.

Evidence points to Russia

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded they have evidence Russia was responsible for the hacks.

Rogers also testified there has been no reduction in the volume of attempted Russian cyber attacks and said the U.S. needs to take tough action against nations that attempt to undermine American democracy.

To do so, Rogers said the U.S. must continue to develop a comprehensive cyber policy and improve its ability to defend itself in the cyber domain.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain agreed improvement is needed and criticized the Trump administration for failing to meet its self-imposed 90-day deadline for devising a cyber security strategy.

“While inaction from the executive branch has been disheartening, this committee has not stood still,” McCain said. McCain added the committee has adopted more than 50 provisions over the past four years that were designed to enable the Defense Department to “deter and defend against threats in cyber space.”

France’s primary cyber security agency, known by the French acronym ANSII, has declined to react to Rogers’ testimony.

Russia continues to deny allegations it is responsible for cyber attacks with the intent to interfere in foreign elections.