TOP INTEL TODAY 2017 STORIES #2 : “NSA Hacked French President’s House” [UPDATE]

“Keith Alexander (Director of the NSA) told me he was disappointed because he never thought we would detect them and he even added: You guys are good.”

“In the Intelligence World, you have some allies. You don’t have friends.”

Bernard Barbier –Director of the DGSE Technical Division from 2006 to 2013


“French newspaper ‘Le Monde’ just published an article confirming that the NSA hacked the Élysée Palace during the 2012 Presidential campaign.” This post was first published on September 4 2016. The piece was so popular that several French TV channels covered the story during their evening News. The recorded interview of Bernard Barbier ‘disappeared’ for a few days but eventually came back and remains available to this day.

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I will not pull a “Chomsky” analysis on this story, but ask yourself what would have happened if the shoe had been on the other foot? Worse, can you imagine the furor of the US media if the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service had been caught hacking the White House?

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UPDATE (February 23 2018) — Max Smeets  — a postdoctoral fellow in cybersecurity at the Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University — just penned an analysis published by the Washington Post. Smeets suggests that Barbier may have been intentionally a bit too talkative…

“After Kaspersky Lab, a Russian anti-virus company, reported in 2014 on the espionage platform “Animal Farm,” many analysts believed the French government to be behind the sophisticated intel capabilities embedded in the malware. The French government initially denied any role.

During a lecture in mid-2016, however, Bernard Barbier, the former technical head of France’s external intelligence agency, admitted his agency had developed the malware.

Security blogger Bruce Schneier points out Barbier “talked about a lot of things he probably shouldn’t have.”

But for France, this post-hoc confirmation of capabilities likely enhanced the government’s reputation in this new area of conflict.”


‘Quantum Insert’ has been used to hack the Élysée Palace’s computer infrastructure. This type of attacks was  previously used in the joint GCHQ/NSA operation against employees of the Belgian Telecom Belgacom (renamed Proximus today).

The malware was detected in May 2012 — between the two rounds of the Presidential election — and the help of the Technical Division of the DGSE was requested.

Bernard Barbier — the Director of the DGSE Technical Division from 2006 to 2013 — came quickly  to the conclusion that the US/NSA was behind the hack.


Bernard Barbier : the Director of the DGSE Technical Division from 2006 to 2013

The fact that the NSA spies on the French President has shocked a few people but Barbier is not too surprised.

“In the Intelligence World, you have some allies. You don’t have friends.”

How Quantum Insert Works

According to various documents leaked by Snowden and published by The Intercept and the German newspaper Der Spiegel, Quantum Insert requires the NSA and GCHQ to have fast-acting servers relatively near a target’s machine that are capable of intercepting browser traffic swiftly in order to deliver a malicious web page to the target’s machine before the legitimate web page can arrive.

To achieve this, the spy agencies use rogue systems the NSA has codenamed FoxAcid servers, as well as special high-speed servers known as “shooters,” placed at key points around the internet. [WIRED]

French Capacity

According to Barbier, the difference in term of capacities between the French and the U.S. agencies is significant. The NSA enjoys a workforce 20 times larger (60,000 vs 3,000), and a budget 40 times bigger (US $50 Billions). Even the GCHQ (UK) & UNIT 8200 (Israel) have twice more resources.

Warning & Recommendations

Barbier believes that the Intelligence capacities of France are not matching the geopolitical ambitions of the French Government.

If France gets involved in countries such Mali, Syria and Libya, then you must assume that “these guys” will not sit idle. They will attempt to make trouble in France. In his opinion, France does not have the Intelligence capacity to manage these threats.

Barbier ridicules the idea of a “European CIA/NSA.” However, he believes that a joint French-German Intelligence Agency could be established and would be very efficient. Such Agency would enjoy a workforce of 15 000 skilled people.

The interview

The interview of Bernard Barbier — in French — can be watched in this video. Unfortunately, the sound is pretty bad.


Les Etats-Unis ont bien piraté l’Elysée en 2012 — Le Monde 03 September 2016

How to detect sneaky NSA Quantum Insert Attacks — WIRED


NSA Hacked French President’s House

TOP INTEL TODAY 2017 STORIES #2 : “NSA Hacked French President’s House”

TOP INTEL TODAY 2017 STORIES #2 : “NSA Hacked French President’s House”  [UPDATE]

This entry was posted in Belgacom, Bernard Barbier, DGSE, Keith Alexander, NSA, Quantum Insert and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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