* Emails posted online just before official campaign ends
* Macron campaign says hackers mixed false, authentic data
* Electoral commission warns republication may be a crime
* Polls predict Macron on course for comfortable win over Le
By Adrian Croft and Geert De Clercq
PARIS, May 6 France sought to keep a computer
hack of frontrunner Emmanuel Macron's campaign emails from
influencing the outcome of the country's presidential election
with a warning on Saturday it could be a criminal offence to
republish the data.
Macron's team said a "massive" hack had dumped emails,
documents and campaign financing information online just before
campaigning ended on Friday and France entered a quiet period
which forbids politicians from commenting on the leak.
"On the eve of the most important election for our
institutions, the commission calls on everyone present on
internet sites and social networks, primarily the media, but
also all citizens, to show responsibility and not to pass on
this content, so as not to distort the sincerity of the ballot,"
the French election commission said in a statement.
The data leak emerged as polls predicted Macron was on
course for a comfortable victory over far-right leader Marine Le
Pen in Sunday's election, with the last surveys showing his lead
widening to around 62 percent to 38.
The commission, which supervises the electoral process, said
after a hastily called meeting on Saturday that the data been
fraudulently obtained and could be mixed with false information.
However, its rules may be difficult to enforce in an era
where people get much of their news online, information flows
freely across borders and many users are anonymous.
French media covered the hack in various ways, with
left-leading Liberation giving it prominence on its website, but
television news channels opting not to mention it.
As much as 9 gigabytes of data were posted on a profile
called EMLEAKS to Pastebin, a site that allows anonymous
document sharing, late on Friday.
It was not immediately clear who was responsible, but
Macron's political movement said in a statement the hack was an
attempt to destabilise democracy and to damage the party.
"The En Marche! (Onwards!) Movement has been the victim of a
massive and co-ordinated hack," it said.
En Marche! said the leaked documents dealt with the normal
operations of a campaign and included some information on
campaign accounts. It said the hackers had mixed false documents
with authentic ones to "sow doubt and disinformation."
France is the latest nation to see a major election
overshadowed by allegations of manipulation through cyber
hacking after U.S. intelligence agencies said in January that
Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered hacking of parties
tied to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to
influence the election on behalf of Republican Donald Trump.
The Kremlin has denied it was behind any such attacks,
although Macron's camp renewed complaints against Russian media
and a hackers' group operating in Ukraine.
Sunday's election is seen as the most important in France
for decades, with two diametrically opposed views of Europe and
the country's place in the world at stake.
The National Front's Le Pen would close borders and quit the
euro currency, while independent Macron wants closer European
cooperation and an open economy.
On Friday night as the #Macronleaks hashtag buzzed around
social media, Florian Philippot, deputy leader of the National
Front, tweeted "Will Macronleaks teach us something that
investigative journalism has deliberately kept silent?"
Vitali Kremez, director of research with New York-based
cyber intelligence firm Flashpoint, told Reuters his review
indicated that APT 28, a group tied to the GRU, the Russian
military intelligence directorate, was behind the leak.
APT28 last month registered decoy internet addresses to
mimic the name of En Marche, which it likely used send tainted
emails to hack into the campaign’s computers, Kremez said. Those
domains include onedrive-en-marche.fr and mail-en-marche.fr.
"If indeed driven by Moscow, this leak appears to be a
significant escalation over the previous Russian operations
aimed at the U.S. presidential election, expanding the approach
and scope of effort from simple espionage efforts towards more
direct attempts to sway the outcome," Kremez said.
Former economy minister Macron's campaign has previously
complained about attempts to hack its emails, blaming Russian
interests in part for the cyber attacks.
(Additional reporting by Bate Felix, Andrew Callus and Michel
Rose in Paris, Jim Finkle in Toronto and Eric Auchard in
Frankfurt; editing by Alexander Smith)