Russian hackers are back to compromise US presidential elections; Microsoft

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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American multinational technology company Microsoft has reportedly warned US Presidentship challenger Joe Biden’s main campaign advisory firms they can potentially face hacking from the same Russian group of hackers which had intervened in the 2016 U.S. election.

The software giant said that hackers linked to Russia, China, and Iran are trying to spy on people tied to both U.S. President Donald Trump and his challenger Joe Biden.

The firm’s statement highlights how advisers to both presidential campaigns are at risk from digital spies around the globe, as the two candidates face off on Nov. 3 in one of the most consequential U.S. presidential elections in decades.

Microsoft’s vice president for customer security, Tom Burt, said the group accused of breaching Hillary Clinton’s campaign emails in 2016, a Russian military intelligence-linked unit widely known as Fancy Bear had spent the past year trying to break into accounts belonging to political consultants serving both Republicans and Democrats as well as advocacy organizations and think tanks.

Burt also said Chinese hackers had gone after people “closely associated with U.S. presidential campaigns and candidates” including an unnamed Biden ally who was targeted through a personal email address and “at least one prominent individual formerly associated with the Trump Administration.”

He added that Iranian hackers, which Microsoft has already called out publicly for attempts to spy on a U.S. political campaign had since tried to log into accounts belonging to Trump administration officials and members of the Republican president’s campaign staff.

The Department of Homeland Security’s top cyber official, Christopher Krebs, said Microsoft’s warning was consistent with earlier statements issued by the intelligence community about Russian, Chinese, and Iranian spying on election-related targets.

“It is important to highlight that none are involved in maintaining or operating voting infrastructure and there was no identified impact on election systems,” Mr. Krebs said.

The Biden and Trump campaigns both said they were aware of the targeting and weren’t surprised by it.

Russian Embassy Press Secretary Nikolay Lakhonin pushed back on the allegations, saying Americans had been discussing “so-called ‘interference'” for years without presenting what he described as “factual evidence.” Alireza Miryousefi, the spokesman for Iran’s U.N. mission in New York, said it was “preposterous to even think that Iran would conduct hacking.”

The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately return messages. Beijing has previously denied allegations of cyber espionage.

State-backed hackers going after politicians in an election year is not unusual.