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Microsoft reports China, Iran and Russia attempted to cyberattack presidential campaigns

Microsoft reports China, Iran and Russia attempted to cyberattack presidential campaigns
Posted at 3:23 PM, Sep 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-10 18:49:58-04

Microsoft said in a blog post on Thursday that it has discovered efforts by Iran, China and Russia to launch cyberattacks on the presidential campaigns of Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

Tom Burt, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for customer security and trust, wrote that Microsoft was able to stop the cyberattacks from happening, and have notified the campaigns of the three countries’ efforts.

“We disclose attacks like these because we believe it’s important the world knows about threats to democratic processes,” Burt wrote. “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. We report on nation-state activity to our customers and more broadly when material to the public, regardless of the actor’s nation-state affiliation. We are taking extra steps to protect customers involved in elections, government and policymaking.”

Last month, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a statement outlining efforts by Iran, China and Russia to attempt to undermine this year’s presidential election.

“Ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections, foreign states will continue to use covert and overt influence measures in their attempts to sway U.S. voters’ preferences and perspectives, shift U.S. policies, increase discord in the United States, and undermine the American people’s confidence in our democratic process,” William Evanina, director of the United States National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said. "They may also seek to compromise our election infrastructure for a range of possible purposes, such as interfering with the voting process, stealing sensitive data, or calling into question the validity of the election results. However, it would be difficult for our adversaries to interfere with or manipulate voting results at scale.”

As part of Evanina’s assessment, he said that China and Iran were attempting to seek a favorable outcome for Biden, while Russia was working to ensure a favorable outcome for Trump.

“As Americans, we are all in this together; our elections should be our own,” Evanina previously said. “Foreign efforts to influence or interfere with our elections are a direct threat to the fabric of our democracy. Neutralizing these threats requires not just a whole-of-government approach, but a whole-of-nation effort.”

The Trump campaign responded to Microsoft’s cybersecurity report.

"As President Trump’s re-election campaign, we are a large target, so it is not surprising to see malicious activity directed at the campaign or our staff,” Thea McDonald, deputy national press secretary for the Trump campaign, said. “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.”

The Biden campaign also responded to the report.

"We are aware of reports from Microsoft that a foreign actor has made unsuccessful attempts to access the non-campaign email accounts of individuals affiliated with the campaign," the campaign said. "We have known from the beginning of our campaign that we would be subject to such attacks and we are prepared for them. Biden for President takes cybersecurity seriously, we will remain vigilant against these threats, and will ensure that the campaign's assets are secured."

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