Microsoft uncovers more Russian hacking ahead of USA midterm elections

Gerald Bowen
August 22, 2018

Other malicious domains were used to mimic legitimate sites used by the US Senate and Microsoft's Office software suite, the company said.

The GRU hackers also set up fake internet domains that were purportedly for the US Senate, according to Microsoft.

Moscow has repeatedly dismissed allegations that it has used hackers to influence U.S. elections and political opinion.

All these hacking attempts use the same set of strategies Russians allegedly used in 2016 to sow chaos in the lead-up to the USA presidential election.

He said there was no sign the hackers were successful in persuading anyone to click on the fake websites, which could have exposed a target victim to computer infiltration, hidden surveillance and data theft. The attacks are impersonating conservative think tanks that want to up sanctions against Russian and expose oligarchs, among other goals.

"We can only assume that this attack was meant to gather information about, and compromise or otherwise disrupt, Hudson's longstanding democracy-promotion programs, and in particular, our initiatives to expose the activities of foreign kleptocratic regimes", the Hudson Institute said in a statement Tuesday.

The International Republican Institute has a roster of high-profile Republican board members, including Senator John McCain of Arizona who has criticized U.S. President Donald Trump's interactions with Russian Federation, and Moscow's rights record.

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The apparent spear phishing attempt announced this week seems to be part of "continued activity targeting. elected officials, politicians, political groups, and think tanks across the political spectrum in the United States", Microsoft said.

"It is clearly created to sow confusion, conflict and fear among those who criticise (Vladimir) Putin's authoritarian regime", Twining wrote.

Microsoft is "concerned that these and other attempts pose security threats to a broadening array of groups connected with both American political parties in the run-up to the 2018 elections", Smith wrote. An indictment from the USA special counsel, Robert Mueller, has tied it to Russian's main intelligence agency, known as the GRU, and to the 2016 email hacking of both the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign.

"I think you need to establish structures of deterrence so that our adversaries who have conducted cyber-operations against us or who are contemplating it come to understand they will pay a much higher price if they do that than if they simply refrain", Bolton said.

Microsoft's DCU can indeed "get a court order to lift privacy controls in place on any website that has violated its terms of service or is engaged in illegal activities", Jeffrey Carr, a cybersecurity analyst and the founder and principal investigator of Project Grey Goose, told RT, commenting on the issue. The company obtained court approval past year allowing it to seize certain fake domains created by the group.

"We have now used this approach 12 times in two years to shut down 84 fake websites associated with this group", boasted Microsoft prez Brad Smith in a corporate blog post.

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