According to Microsoft, hackers from Russia, Iran and China are attempting to spy on people and groups linked with the United States 2020 Presidential election in November. The Russian hackers who sabotaged 2016 Democratic campaign four years ago, have once again become active to breach the current general election. MS said it was “clear that foreign activity groups have stepped up their efforts” to disrupt the election. Both President Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden are in the sights and close range of the attackers.
Cyber-raiders from Russia-based Strontium group have launched attack on more than 200 organizations, many of which are directly associated with two party political system in US i.e., both Democrats and Republicans, Microsoft said in a statement. The same group also infiltrated British political parties, Microsoft said without specifically naming one. Strontium or Fancy Bear is a cyber-warfare allegedly backed and run by Russian military intelligence, the GRU.
Similar to what we observed in 2016, Strontium is launching campaigns to harvest people’s log-in credentials or compromise their accounts, presumably to aid in intelligence gathering or disruption operations,” said Tom Burt who oversees customer security and trust operations in Microsoft Corporation.
According to the organization most of the cyber-attacks had not been successful due to robust security and proactiveness after the previous attacks. The attacks have also not been carried out on groups that handle the voting systems.
“What we have seen is consistent with previous attack patterns that not only target candidates and campaign staffers but also those they consult on key issues. These activities highlight the need for people and organizations involved in the political process to take advantage of free and low-cost security tools to protect themselves as we get closer to election day.”
The Software developer also alleged the role of Chinese groups in attacks on the personal email accounts of people affiliated with the former VP Biden campaign, as well as “at least one prominent individual formerly associated with the Trump administration”.
Prominent individuals linked with international affairs community, academia and policy institutes in US have also come under the attacks of a Chinese group recognized as Zirconium. The Iranian group known as Phosphorous has unsuccessfully attempted to get into the accounts of WH officials and Mr. Trump’s campaign staff between May and June of 2020. MS was unable to assess the motives behind the attacks sponsored by Russian, Iranian and Chinese governments.
Trump campaign’s deputy national press secretary Thea McDonald said: “We are a large target, so it is not surprising to see malicious activity directed ate the campaign or our staff.”
Meanwhile, a Biden campaign official familiar with the malicious foreign activity, said: “We have known from the beginning of our campaign that we would be subject to such attacks and we are prepared for them.”
The report is issued a day after a whistleblower from the US Department of Homeland Security alleged, he was put under pressure to understate the threat of Russian meddling in the country as it “made the president look bad”.