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Sunday July 23rd, 2017 12:42AM

The Latest: French cybersecurity agency to probe Macron hack

By The Associated Press
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PARIS (AP) — The Latest on France's presidential runoff on Sunday between centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen (all times local):

8:35 p.m.

A French government official says the state cybersecurity agency will investigate a hacking attack targeting presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron.

The official said the Macron team asked the campaign oversight commission Saturday to bring in cybersecurity agency ANSSI to study the hack. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the details publicly.

ANSSI can only be called in for cases where the cyberattack is "massive and sophisticated," the official said. The Macron hack seems to fit the bill, because ANSSI will investigate, the official said.

Macron's political movement would not comment on the probe, since this is during the nationwide campaigning blackout period on Saturday and Sunday.

— John Leicester in Paris

___

8:10 p.m.

French natives are turning out in droves in the Canadian province of Quebec to cast a ballot in France's presidential runoff.

The French consul general in Montreal said more than 57,000 people registered to vote in the province, an overwhelming majority of them in Montreal. In the first round of voting two weeks ago, long lines formed in Montreal as people waited to cast their vote.

While the presidential election in France takes place Sunday, those not in the country must vote Saturday.

The presidential runoff pits centrist Emmanuel Macron and his pro-European vision against far-right Marine Le Pen and her protectionist views, which resonate with jobless workers.

Voting also took place Saturday elsewhere in Canada, including the French Embassy in Ottawa. Scarves and jackets were the dress code at voting stations on the French islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon off the chilly northeastern coast of Canada.

___

7:15 p.m.

From depressed northern France to the streets of Paris, many voters are looking forward to the end of a presidential campaign marred by hostility, hacking and low-brow political discourse.

Election officials are setting up voting booths around the country for Sunday's runoff between independent newcomer Emmanuel Macron and far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen.

In Henin-Beaumont in northern France, where Le Pen will cast her ballot, 28-year-old Thomas Delannoy said Saturday the campaign "looks like reality TV." The construction painter called the electoral process "laughable," saying he can't identify with either candidate's platform.

Macron will vote in the seaside town of Le Touquet, where his wife Brigitte went for a walk with her daughter and grandchildren Saturday.

Few voters seemed aware of the massive hacking attack on Macron's team announced minutes before a blackout on campaigning began Friday at midnight.

___

4:50 p.m.

The British-based betting firm Ladbrokes says far-right candidate Marine Le Pen is attracting 90 percent of the bets on the eve of the French presidential election, as people gamble that France is in line for an upset.

The betting firm said Saturday despite the polls favoring her centrist rival, Emmanuel Macron, gamblers are putting money on the idea that France may be in line for a political shock similar to Britain's decision to leave the European Union or Donald Trump's victory in the U.S. presidential election.

Le Pen's odds are 6-1. Macron is at 1-10 odds.

Nicola McGeady of Ladbrokes says with "so many political upsets in recent times, we are not surprised to see punters ignoring the polls. Le Pen is attracting the weight of money."

___

3:50 p.m.

France's election campaign commission says "a significant amount of data" has been leaked on social networks following a hacking attack on centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron's campaign some 36 hours before voting starts in Sunday's runoff.

The commission says Saturday the data leaked apparently came from Macron's "information systems and mail accounts from some of his campaign managers." The watchdog says the leaked data has been "fraudulently" obtained and that fake news has probably been mingled in with it.

It urged French media and citizens "not to relay" the contents of the leaked documents "in order not to alter the sincerity of the vote."

French electoral laws impose a blackout Saturday and most of Sunday on any campaigning and media coverage seen as swaying the election.

Macron is seen as the favorite going into Sunday's runoff against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.

___

11 a.m.

Voting in the French presidential runoff has begun in France's overseas territories amid a nationwide blackout on campaigning and media coverage that could sway voters' views. It moves to the mainland on Sunday.

The first French territory involved in the early voting was Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, an archipelago located near the Canadian island of Newfoundland, where polling stations opened Saturday morning.

Early voting in other far-flung French overseas territories and French embassies abroad was expected later in the day.

In the presidential runoff, voters are choosing between centrist Emmanuel Macron's business-friendly, pro-European vision and far-right Marine Le Pen's protectionist, closed-borders view that resonates with workers left behind by globalization.

___

10 a.m.

France's election campaign watchdog is investigating a hacking attack and document leak targeting presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron that his political movement calls a last-ditch bid to disrupt Sunday's tense runoff vote.

Fears of hacking and campaign interference have simmered throughout France's high-stakes, closely watched campaign — and boiled over Friday night as Macron's team said it had been the victim of a "massive and coordinated" hack.

His political movement said the unidentified hackers accessed staffers' personal and professional emails and leaked campaign finance material and contracts — as well as fake decoy documents — online.

The perpetrators remain unknown. It's unclear whether the document dump would dent Macron's large poll lead over far-right rival Marine Le Pen going into the vote.

___

6 a.m.

The French presidential campaign has been unusually bitter, with voters hurling eggs and flour, protesters clashing with police and candidates insulting each other on national television — a reflection of the widespread public disaffection with politics.

Marine Le Pen, 48, has brought her far-right National Front party, once a pariah for its racism and anti-Semitism, closer than ever to the French presidency, seizing on working-class voters' growing frustration with globalization and immigration. Even if she loses in Sunday's runoff, she is likely to be a powerful opposition figure in France's parliamentary election in June.

On Sunday she faces 39-year-old centrist Emmanuel Macron, who also helped upend France's traditional political structure with his wild-card campaign.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Friday, Le Pen said, win or lose, "we changed everything."

Many voters, however, don't like either Le Pen or Macron. They fear her party's racist past while worrying that his platform would demolish worker job protections.

___

6 a.m.

The hacking attack and leak of both fake and real documents from Emmanuel Macron's campaign began late Friday, just before France's required campaign news blackout descended at midnight.

Someone on 4chan — a site known for, among other things, cruel hoaxes and political extremism — posted links to a large set of data which the poster claimed had come from Macron's campaign. Macron's campaign swiftly confirmed it had been hacked some weeks ago, and that at least some of the documents were genuine.

Macron's team is slamming the hack as an effort to "seed doubt and disinformation" and destabilize the French presidential vote on Sunday where he faces Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front party.

A top National Front official, Florian Philippot, asked in a tweet, "will the #Macronleaks teach us something that investigative journalism deliberately buried?"

The French election commission is meeting Saturday on the hack and the leak.

A voting watchdog urged the French Interior Ministry late Friday to look into claims by the Le Pen campaign that some of her ballot papers were being tampered with to benefit Macron.

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