Microsoft Identifies Groups Launching Cyberattacks on US Elections

Tech giant points at the usual suspects from Russia, China, and Iran


Three months before the U.S. elections, tech giant Microsoft has detected cyberattacks targeting people and organizations involved in the upcoming polls.

In a blog post on Thursday (September 10), Microsoft Tom Corporate Vice President for Customer Security & Trust Tom Burt said these new cyberattacks included unsuccessful targeting of people involved in both the Trump and Biden campaigns.

“We have and will continue to defend our democracy against these attacks through notifications of such activity to impacted customers, security features in our products and services, and legal and technical disruptions,” the Microsoft executive said.

Foreign activity groups, according to Microsoft, have been stepping up efforts to targeting the U.S. Presidential elections in November. The firm identified three groups operating in Russia, China, and Iran.

First among the cyber attackers is Strontium, operating from Russia, which has attacked more than 200 organizations including political campaigns, advocacy groups, parties, and political consultants.

Another group called Zirconium, operating from China has attacked high-profile individuals associated with the election, including people associated with the Joe Biden for President campaign and prominent leaders in the international affairs community.

Meanwhile, another group called Phosphorus, operating from Iran has continued to attack the personal accounts of people associated with Donald J. Trump for President campaign.

According to the Redmond, Washington-based firm, the majority of these attacks were detected and stopped by security tools built into Microsoft products. The company directly notified those who were targeted or compromised so they can take action to protect themselves.

“We are sharing more about the details of these attacks today, and where we’ve named impacted customers, we’re doing so with their support,” the company said.

Social networks join Microsoft in fight vs. misinformation

Another social networking giant, Twitter has announced it will remove misinformation aiming to undermine confidence in the U.S. election, including posts claiming victory before results have been certified or inciting unlawful conduct to prevent a peaceful transfer of power, Reuters reported.

The microblogging and social networking service app said it will remove or label tweets with misleading information that confuses the laws of the election. It will also remove tweets with disputed claims, such as unverified information about election rigging and ballot tampering.

Tweets with misleading claims about the results of the election which could interfere with the implementation of those results will also be removed from the site.

Earlier on September 3rd, social networking giant Facebook also announced that it will freeze new political ads in a week before the US election on November 3.

This as Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg worries about divisions in the country that may potentially lead to civil unrest. Facebook also said it will label posts from candidates attempting to declare victory before the votes had been counted.

The company will also prohibit posts claiming people will get COVID-19 if they take part in the vote. They will also label posts seeking to delegitimize the poll results. Labels will also be added to posts by candidates that seek to claim victory before the final results.

Facebook had also “strengthened” its enforcement policies against movements known to spread conspiracy theories, such as QAnon.

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JM Agreda
JM Agreda is a freelance journalist for more than 12 years writing for numerous international publications, research journals, and news websites. He mainly covers business, tech, transportation, and political news for Businessner.