Microsoft Says Russian Operation Targeted U.S. Political Groups As Midterms Loom

Joanna Estrada
August 22, 2018

Microsoft announced Tuesday that groups tied to the Russian government created fake internet sites for the Hudson Institute and the International Republican Institute.

Some members of the boards include Senator John McCain, Governor Mitt Romney, and Senator Marco Rubio.

"Attackers want their attacks to look as realistic as possible and they therefore create websites and URLs that look like sites their targeted victims would expect to receive email from or visit", Microsoft said.

These encouraged people to enter their login information, including passwords.

International Republican Institute President Daniel Twining said Microsoft's findings are evidence of Russian meddling.

"It's clear that democracies around the world are under attack", he said.

Over the course of the last two year, a total of 84 websites have been taken down by the company's digital crimes unit.

Russian Federation has been accused of meddling with the US elections in 2016 using the internet, with tech giants such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter having been summoned a year ago to testify before USA legislators over the issue.

The other was the Hudson Institute, which supports keeping up economic and political pressure on Russian Federation and strengthening North Atlantic Treaty Organisation - positions that leaves it generally at odds with US President Donald Trump.

Here're answers to your questions about Microsoft's efforts to stop the fake sites, as well as how these attempts fit into the big picture when it comes to election hacking.

A U.S. federal grand jury indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers in July on charges of hacking Democratic Party computer networks in an attempt to sway the 2016 United States presidential election, and some USA officials have said Moscow could try to interfere in the United States midterm elections in November.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Russia's role in the 2016 election and whether the campaign of Republican candidate Donald Trump colluded with Moscow.

Last month US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in a talk at the Hudson Institute that, among cyber threats, "Russia has been the most aggressive foreign actor -- no question". It's all part of what United States intelligence officials and cybersecurity experts say is an ongoing attempt to influence USA elections by hacking politicians and sparking discord online.

Microsoft obtained a court order to shut down the six websites.

Experts said the aim was to go after anyone who opposes Putin.

Facebook said late last month it had removed 32 pages and fake accounts from its platforms in a bid to combat foreign meddling ahead of November's US congressional elections.

Three US intelligence officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the Russian hacking into traditional Republican policy organisations is neither new nor confined to Russia.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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