Hackers from China, Iran and Russia ‘attempting to spy on Trump and Biden campaigns’


Hackers from China, Russia and Iran are attempting to spy on the presidential campaigns of Donald Trump and Joe Biden, according to Microsoft.

The tech giant says that the same group of cyber criminals from Russia that attempted to interfere in the 2016 US election are trying to break into email accounts belonging to staff members from across the political spectrum.

It adds that a group based in China has targeted Joe Biden’s election campaign, while a team of hackers in Iran are continuing to attack accounts related to Donald Trump, ahead of polling day on 3 November.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has criticised Donald Trump
Hackers have unsuccessfully targeted Joe Biden

Strontium, the Russian group, was “identified in the Mueller report as the organisation primary responsible for the attacks on the Democratic presidential campaign in 2016,” according to Microsoft’s head of cyber security, Tom Burt.

The firm said Strontium is trying to “harvest people’s login credentials or compromise their accounts”, and has targeted consultants, think tanks and political parties, including those in the UK.

Strontium are said to have masked their activities by rotating more than 1,000 IP addresses every day, as well as engaging in “password spray”, which allows them to automate their activities.

The group in China, known as Zirconium, is specifically targeting Joe Biden’s presidential campaign “through non-campaign email accounts belonging to people affiliated with the campaign”, Mr Burt said.

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The group has so far been unsuccessful in their attempts to breach those accounts.

Phosphorus, based in Iran, has attempted to access accounts associated with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign over the summer, but Microsoft has been able to take control of the URLs used by the group, after being given permission by courts in Washington DC.

Mr Burt said: “We disclose attacks like these because we believe it is important the world knows about threats to democratic processes.

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“It is critical that everyone involved in democratic processes around the world, both directly or indirectly, be aware of these threats and take steps to protect themselves in both their personal and professional capacities.”

He also asked U Congress to approve funding to states to help them with cyber crime.

Speaking to NBC, Jamal Brown, Joe Biden’s press secretary, said: “We have known from the beginning of our campaign that we would be subject to such attacks and we are prepared for them.”

Thea McDonald, deputy national press secretary for the Trump campaign, said in an email to NBC that it was “not surprising to see malicious activity directed at the campaign.”

“We work closely with our partners, Microsoft and others, to mitigate these threats. We take cybersecurity very seriously and do not publicly comment on our efforts.”

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