Russian hackers again targeting US election, Microsoft warns

Tech giant claims Kremlin-backed group is trying to infiltrate Donald Trump and Joe Biden campaigns

(Image credit: Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian military hackers who leaked Democratic Party emails during the 2016 US presidential election are up to their old tricks ahead of this year’s vote, according to Microsoft.

The tech giant says that Strontium, a Kremlin-backed hacking group also known as Fancy Bear, “has attacked more than 200 organisations including political campaigns, advocacy groups, parties and political consultants” involved in the campaigns of Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

“The majority of these attacks were detected and stopped,” said Tom Burt, a Microsoft vice-president in charge of customer security and trust, in a blogpost that claims hackers from China and Iran are also attempting to derail the campaigns.

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The Washington-based multinational made no mention of “which foreign adversary poses the greater threat to the integrity of the November presidential election”, says The Guardian, but “the consensus among cybersecurity experts is that Russian interference is the gravest”.

Burt’s blogpost says that “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”.

The Times reports that the Biden campaign was “alerted to the threat when Microsoft contacted SKDKnickerbocker, a strategy company that advises the Democratic challenger, to say it had been under attack for the past two months”.

A spokesperson for the Trump campaign said the cybersecurity threats were being taken “very seriously”, adding: “We are a large target, so it is not surprising to see malicious activity directed at the campaign or our staff. We work closely with our partners, Microsoft and others, to mitigate these threats.”

Meanwhile, a Kremlin spokesperson dismissed the allegations as “nonsense”. Moscow has repeatedly denied using hacking to interfere in elections in countries across the world.

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