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Paris condemns a massive campaign targeting major French media

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On Tuesday, June 13, France accused Russia of being behind a large-scale operation of digital interference, in particular by publishing false articles from major French daily newspapers hostile to Ukraine, actions that fall under the framework of “Hybrid war” from Moscow.

“The French authorities have highlighted the existence of a digital information manipulation campaign against France that included Russian actors and in which government entities or Russian state entities participated by amplifying false information.”Secretary of State Catherine Colonna said in a statement read by a State Department spokeswoman.

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Paris in “hang up” with his allies “To defeat the hybrid war waged by Russia”she added. Spokeswoman Anne Claire Legendre said the campaign targeted many media websites, but also the State Department website and other government websites, by creating mirror sites.

Operation “Doppelganger”

A government source revealed that the discovery on May 29 of a mirror site of the ministry alleging, erroneously, that France was going to impose a tax to fund aid to Ukraine, hastened the authorities’ decision to make the case public. of anonymity. So far, Paris has followed a cautious doctrine when it comes to attributing digital attacks.

Moreover, this French declaration, “does not constitute an attribution” To the Russian authorities, who are currently accused only of participating in amplifying the phenomenon, specify the government source. but “We want to send a clear message that we can detect and take countermeasures.”she added.

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The minister confirmed “The participation of Russian embassies and cultural centers that have actively participated in amplifying this campaign, including through their institutional accounts on social networks”. So far, however, the authorities have not noticed “Influencing public opinion, which is very flexible in the face of these campaigns”According to Anne Claire Legendre.

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The process revealed by the government is more subtle “The second phase of a campaign is already known, but with more sophisticated methods of action aimed at circumventing countermeasures and being less visible.”, explains to AFP a security source involved in the file. This is Operation Doppelgänger (in some European folklore, Doppelgänger is the evil double of a person), already documented in the year 2022. Concretely, it involves copying the graphic identity of major media sites to spread misinformation, before inflating their audience on social networks like Facebook.

At the end of September, Facebook’s parent company announced that it had dismantled an operation on its platform “secret power” From Russia to amplify the visibility of these articles from hacking sites, the promoters of which, two consulting firms in marketing and information technology, spent $ 105,000. “Meta hoped his report would put an end to operations, that was not the case.”Indicates the source of security.

Four French daily newspapers were targeted

At least four French daily newspapers, Le Parisien, Le Figaro, Le Monde and 20 Minutes, were victims of the operation, but other major media outlets were also targeted, in particular German newspapers (Der Spiegel, Bild, Die Welt…) or Italian. The hackers produced fake articles on a page identical in all respects to that of the official website of this media, but with a different domain name, for example “. ltd” instead of “. fr”.

copy so that clicking on the hypertext links it contains leads to articles in the real newspaper. This practice is called “typographic”. These fake articles are then spread across social networks in an effort to drive their spread, which seems to be low at the moment.

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Le Monde can only condemn these intolerable acts and welcome the fact that the perpetrators of these attempts at manipulation have now been identified.commented on the newspaper’s website, its director, Jerome Fenoglio.

“We found dozens of domain names that were bought by Russians because of a typo. We don’t deal with people who act in homeopathic potions. They are at the very beginning of the manufacturing process.”explains the security source to Agence France-Presse.

The initial structure of the operation is called RRN, from the name of the RRN’s pro-Russian outpost. The world (recently reliable news) was created a few months after the start of the war in Ukraine which shared many fruits, especially in the so-called staging of the Butcha massacre.

In addition to typographical appropriation, the process leads to other acts of influence such as the production of anti-Zelensky cartoons or pro-Russian novels and disinformation via so-called “reinfo”. “There is no doubt that the aim was to launch a major disinformation campaign against French public opinion.”According to a government source. This process is part of an already ancient practice of Russian influence work.

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