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United States accused of hacking French government computers

Reports in France claim the United States launched a sophisticated cyber-attack on the French government earlier this year.

Weekly news magazine L’Express says the Nicolas Sarkozy regime was targeted by the espionage operation back in May 2012, just a few days before the second round of the presidential election in which François Hollande eventually prevailed.

The magazine says spyware was installed onto a computer at the presidential office which spread across multiple machines, including that of Sarkozy’s Secretary General, Xavier Musca. It is not the first time the US has been implicated in a cyber-attack on another nation state, but the alleged targeting of a diplomatic ally is likely to raise greater concern about White House policy.

The government’s IT network took a number of days to be restored after the attack says L’Express, which claims the malicious code bore a resemblance to the Flame virus that infected computers across a number of nations this year – most prominently in the Middle East. The Washington Post reported that Flame was part of a joint campaign unleashed by the US in conjunction with Israel.

Having had the US identified by “several sources” as the instigator of the French attack, L’Express took the accusation to Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano. The White House official did not directly address the claims, neither confirming or denying the attack, and instead played up the importance of France as an ally to the United States.