Microsoft warns about U.S. elections organized attacks

by Claudiu Andone
Claudiu Andone
Claudiu Andone
Windows & Software Expert
Oldtimer in the tech and science press, Claudiu is focused on whatever comes new from Microsoft. His abrupt interest in computers started when he saw the first Home... read more
Affiliate Disclosure
  • Microsoft is warning about foreign hacker organizations attacking all parties implicated in the U.S. elections.
  • According to their report, the organizations are operating from Russia, China, and Iran.
  • Read more about your OS and how to secure it in our Windows 10 section.
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U.S. elections organized hacker attacks

As election campaigns are in full swing, Tom Burt, Corporate Vice President for Customer Security & Trust at Microsoft warned about new cyberattacks targeting the U.S. election in a new report:

The activity we are announcing today makes clear that foreign activity groups have stepped up their efforts targeting the 2020 election as had been anticipated, and is consistent with what the U.S. government and others have reported. We also report here on attacks against other institutions and enterprises worldwide that reflect similar adversary activity.

What are the attacking organizations?

According to Burt’s report, Microsoft detected three organizations operating from Russia, China, and Iran that targeted  organizations and all responsible parties implicated in the U.S. elections:

Strontium, operating from Russia, has attacked more than 200 organizations including political campaigns, advocacy groups, parties and political consultants

Zirconium, operating from China, has attacked high-profile individuals associated with the election, including people associated with the Joe Biden for President campaign and prominent leaders in the international affairs community

Phosphorus, operating from Iran, has continued to attack the personal accounts of people associated with the Donald J. Trump for President campaign

Microsoft said that they detected and stopped the majority of the attacks using the security tools built into their products and they also notified those who have been targeted or compromised.

What are the targets of hacker organizations?

Strontium, a Russian affiliated group who was also implicated in attacking the Democratic presidential campaign in 2016, has been triggering more than 200 organizations.

According to Microsoft’s report, among others, Strontium attacked U.S.-based consultants serving Republicans and Democrats, think tanks such as The German Marshall Fund of the United States, and advocacy organizations.

They are also known to attack the national and state party organizations in the U.S., and The European People’s Party and political parties in the UK.

Zirconium, a Chinese-linked hacker group is known for information theft and espionage:

We’ve detected thousands of attacks from Zirconium between March 2020 and September 2020 resulting in nearly 150 compromises. Its targets have included individuals in two categories.

The first category contains people closely associated with U.S. presidential campaigns and candidates including Joe Biden and prominent individuals formerly associated with the Trump Administration.

The second category is composed of prominent individuals in the international affairs community, academics in international affairs from more than 15 universities, and other international organizations.

Phosphorus, an Iranian hacker organization focused its attacks on Trump’s campaign:

Between May and June 2020, Phosphorus unsuccessfully attempted to log into the accounts of administration officials and Donald J. Trump for President campaign staff.

Microsoft expressed their concern but also ensured their full implication in blocking suck attacks and also suggested setting up security solutions to defend against these threats.

How do you feel about hacker attacks on the U.S. elections? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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