July 21, 2018
Microsoft said it spotted and assisted the US government to thwart Russian hacking efforts against no less than three congressional contestants this year, a Microsoft executive disclosed speaking at the Aspen Security Forum on July 19, 2018.
Even though the firm declined to name the targets, however, said, the three contestants were “people who, due to their positions, might have been remarkable targets from a spying point of view as well as an election disturbance point of view.”
As per the firm, the Russian hackers targeted the candidates’ staffers with phishing attacks, forwarding them to a fake Microsoft website, in an effort to thieve their identifications.
“Earlier this year, we did find that a bogus Microsoft domain had been set up as the landing page for phishing attacks,” said Tom Burt, Microsoft’s vice president for customer safety.
“And we saw metadata that indicated those phishing attacks were being directed at three contestants who are all standing for election in the midterm polls.”
At once after learning of this event, Microsoft took down the bogus domain and worked with the government to “evade anyone being infected by that specific attack.”
The firm also made certain that none of the targeted campaign staffers were infected by the attack.
Burt stated that the hacking efforts were carried out by a Russian hacking group, although thus far the group has been less active compared to 2016, during the U.S. presidential election.
Microsoft “found that these [bogus domains] were being registered by an activity group that at Microsoft we call Strontium…that’s known as Fancy Bear or APT 28,” Burt said.
“The unanimity of the threat intelligence community right now is [that] we don’t see the same level of activity by the Russian activity groups resulting in the mid-year elections that we might see when we look back at them at that 2016 elections,” he added.
For example, Burt said the hackers aren’t penetrating think tanks and targeting academia specialists that they did during the 2016 presidential election.
Nevertheless, Burt cautioned that “That doesn’t mean we are not going to see it, there is a lot of time left before the election.”