(CN) – U.S. intelligence officials watched Russians hack France’s computer networks in advance of Sunday’s presidential election, and alerted officials before the hacks became public, the director of U.S. cybersecurity testified Tuesday before the Senate.
On Friday, just 48 hours before French voters went to the polls, centrist candidate and frontrunner Emmanuel Macron announced his campaign had been the target of a massive computer hack.
“The En Marche! Movement has been the victim of a massive and co-ordinated hack this evening which has given rise to the diffusion on social media of various internal information” a statement from the Macron campaign said.
He would go on to win the election against National Front candidate Marine Le Pen, but between his announcing the hack and his celebrating victory, about 9 gigabytes of data were posted on a profile called EMLEAKS to Pastebin, a site that allows anonymous document sharing.
The post included a number of threads making the documents available through the archive.org website. Those threads were quickly deleted.
France’s election campaign commission on Saturday said the leaked data apparently came from Macron’s “information systems and mail accounts from some of his campaign managers,” and while many of the documents were likely authentic, the posting also included a great deal of fake material.
French officials have since said the data theft closely resembled Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
On Tuesday, Adm. Mike Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, told the Senate Armed Services Committee the U.S. had become aware of Russian activity related to the French election, and “we … talked to our French counterparts and gave them a heads-up.”
Rogers said officials at his agency told the French, “‘Look, we’re watching the Russians. We’re seeing them penetrate some of your infrastructure. Here’s what we’ve seen. What can we do to try to assist?'”
France’s chief cybersecurity body, known by the French acronym ANSII, has declined comment on Rogers’ testimony.
Earlier Tuesday, ANSII released a statement saying that it had been assisting with the response to the hack since Friday and that the information-technology fraud division of Paris’ police force had since been charged with investigating the breach.
Rogers also said the U.S. is still working on a comprehensive cyberpolicy to counter what he called a “brave new world” in the cyber domain.
He said the United States is improving its ability to defend itself, but “I would also tell myself, Rogers you are not moving fast enough.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.