Posted on September 11, 2020 at 1:22 PM
Microsoft cybersecurity unit recently revealed that the famous Russian military intelligence unit is back in business. The unit was renowned for its attack on the Democratic National Committee back in 2016.
Now, it seems the group is back with series of modernized and stealthy hacks aimed at think tanks, consultants, and campaign staff members of both the Republicans and Democrats. Their resurgence is no surprise to many, giving their reputation for attacking electioneering campaigns in the United States.
Microsoft issued this warning yesterday, in an assessment that is a lot more detailed than any assessment carried out by American intelligence agencies.
Assessment in line with US government officials’ assessment
This revelation is coming barely 24 hours after a government whistleblower revealed that the Department of Homeland Security and some officials at the White House refused to admit an intelligence report about the activities of the Russian intelligence unit.
According to the whistle-blower, the exposure would “make the president look bad.” Instead, the officials decided to concentrate more on the interference from Iran and China.
However, the federal intelligence officials said the report by Microsoft is consistent with what they have reported initially, which also named Iran, China, and Russia, as the three top nation gathering intelligence reports on the US campaigns. The government agencies also said the hackers are trying to have an influence on the outcome of the elections, which will be held this year.
The director of national intelligence made the most recent assessment last month, which said China would love to see former Vice President Joseph R. Biden as the president after the elections are concluded.
In relation, the Microsoft assessment reveals that the Chinese hackers are planting their spyware on the private email accounts of Mr. Biden’s campaign staff members to get any information they can about his campaign.
Most of the Chinese targets Microsoft discovered were linked with Mr. Biden’s campaign, except on affiliated to Mr. Trump.
Tech firms like Google and Microsoft have vast resources to detect suspicious movements across networks because of their global networking capabilities.
They always want to make their discoveries public not for any other reason but to warn their employees and customers. Apart from their customers, government officials sometimes benefit from these reports and it helps them compare their intelligence reports as it happened with the Russian intelligence unit.
Biden’s campaign has been dealing with serious threats
According to the deputy national press secretary for Donald Trump’s campaign Thea McDonald, the campaign organization has been dealing with serious malicious threats since the campaign team flagged off.
“We are a large target, so it is not surprising to see malicious activity directed at the campaign or our staff,” she said.
She further revealed that the campaign team is collaborating with Microsoft and its partners to nullify the threats.
However, she didn’t reveal the specific cybersecurity measures the campaign team is employing to mitigate the threat.
The Biden campaign team also noted that it has received reports about the cyber threats posed by foreign actors who want to disrupt their campaign. The campaign said the threads have tried vainly to access the non-campaign email accounts of individuals linked to the campaign.
The campaign also revealed it has reported the issue to the director of national intelligence assessment for further action.
Russia’s military intelligence hackers on a rampage
The Microsoft report also revealed that that the hackers are linked with Russia’s G.R.U., the military intelligence unit responsible for the hacking incident in the last U.S. elections campaign four years ago. Now they are back into play to disrupt or alter the outcome of the election.
They are carrying some of the attacks via Tor, an identity-concealing service that’s very popular with cybercriminals
The platform initially delayed the efforts to spot the hackers, but Microsoft was still able to identify their origin.
As it stands, Microsoft said it hasn’t seen any evidence that shows the hackers have been successful in their hacking efforts. However, some corporate officials do not have a definite answer regarding the hackers’ motives or whether they have succeeded to any degree.