Russian, Iranian Hackers Targetting US Presidential Elections: Microsoft

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Microsoft Corporation on Thursday said that hackers from Russia, China and Iran attempted to cyber attack more than 200 organisations linked to both US political parties, Republican and Democratic to infiltrate the campaign of both the candidates, Donald Trump and Joe Biden for the upcoming US presidential candidates in a bid to influence the outcome of November 3 elections.

Groups operating from these countries include ‘Hurricane Panda’ and ‘Zirconium’ from China and ‘Phosphorus’ from Iran. However, most cyber experts consider Russian State-backed hacker group called ‘Straontium’ or ‘Fancy Bear’ as the gravest threat as it is allegedly affiliated to Russian Military Intelligence, the GRU. This has, however, not been authenticated as of yet. Latest group targets by Russian backed hackers is SKDKnickerboker, the consulting firm working on Joe Biden campaign.

An international body, Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) called this election as “the most challenging election” in recent decades. However, Chris Krebs, Director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency told CNN in a statement that the attack has had no visible impact on the conduct of elections in the United States. He further highlighted that no person hit was maintaining or operating any infrastructure related to the voting process.

In 2016 election as well, US Intelligence agencies concluded that same Russia backed group, ‘Fancy Bear’ was behind the effort to undermine Hilary Clinton’s Presidential run by leaking tens of thousands of personal emails of her campaign chair, John Podesta. Special Counsel Robert Muller led investigation revealed the Russian hand behind the leak but concluded that the Trump campaign had not colluded with the Russians, thus preventing his impeachment. Both Russia and Iran denied the allegations as ‘lacking factual evidence’.

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