Russians Blocked From Hacking Three 2018 Candidates

TPM composite  Christine Frapech

Microsoft disclosed Thursday that it identified and helped thwart hacking attempts on three congressional candidates earlier this year, marking the first publicly known hacking efforts targeting candidates in the 2018 midterm elections.

Burt declined to name the candidates being targeted, citing Microsoft's policy of preserving the anonymity of its clients.

Tom Burt, a vice president for customer security at Microsoft, said at the Aspen Security Forum that security researchers at the company discovered the phishing campaigns, tracing them to a group widely believed in the threat-intelligence community to be run by the GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency that hacked into DNC email accounts and leaked their emails. These attacks were made using phony versions of Microsoft's website. They are now working with the government to give the attackers a wide berth and avoid potential targets from getting attacked.

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Microsoft took down the site and prevented the victims from "being infected by that particular attack", Burt said. "They did not get in, they tried, they were not successful, and the government security teams get a lot of credit for that". The only hint that Vole has given is "they were "people who, due to their positions, might have been interesting targets from an espionage standpoint as well as an election disruption standpoint".

Microsoft's services play a prominent role in Fancy Bear's meddling, Burt said.

"We don't see the activity of them trying to infiltrate think tanks and academia and in social networks to do the research that they do to build the phishing attacks", he added.

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"We haven't seen a campaign on the scale of 2016 of concerted attacks against election infrastructure, concerted attacks against campaigns".

Microsoft alerted United States law enforcement and worked with the government to take down the sites.

Despite the threat, Burt had stressed that they are not seeing a considerable success from Russia's electoral interference this time as compared to the 2016 elections.

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