Tech giant Microsoft said on Thursday that hackers from each nation are trying to get into US political campaigns. Microsoft’s findings are consistent with warnings from the US intelligence community.
“The activity we are announcing today makes it clear that foreign activity groups have stepped up their efforts by targeting the 2020 election,” Microsoft said in a post on its website.
Leading US cybersecurity officials acknowledged that Microsoft has detected attempts to compromise the email accounts of individuals and organizations associated with the presidential race, but told CNN there is no evidence that the electoral systems were affected.
All three nations deny the allegations.
“Microsoft shouldn’t be doing things out of thin air, and it shouldn’t drag China into it,” Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry at a press conference on Friday.
Zhao reiterated China’s longstanding stance on the elections, adding, “The US election is its internal business. We have no interest and have never interfered.”
Microsoft’s report states that Chinese hackers targeted Joe Biden’s campaign, through non-campaign email accounts belonging to people associated with the campaign. The attempt was unsuccessful.
The company also reported that China has targeted at least one person previously associated with President Donald Trump’s administration.
The Chinese hacking group has also targeted academics, universities and expert groups including the Atlantic Council, Microsoft said.
Zhao told reporters that the United States is “the biggest cyber attacker in the world”. He also said that US companies were known to have installed technology in products to collect personal data on behalf of US intelligence agencies.
In Iran, Microsoft found that hackers in the country tried to access the accounts of Trump administration officials and Trump campaign personnel between May and June of this year.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh dismissed the claims in a statement on CNN Thursday.
“This relationship is fundamentally inadmissible and absurd,” he said.
“The United States is conducting disinformation campaigns against other countries. Therefore, the United States is unable to make such a claim.”
Microsoft said Iranian hackers attempted to access the accounts of Trump administration officials and Trump campaign personnel between May and June of this year.
“For Tehran, it doesn’t matter who the president of the White House is. What matters is that Washington complies with international law, regulations and standards and stops interfering in other countries and honors its commitments,” Khatibzadeh said.
Russia questions the claims
The Kremlin on Friday questioned how Microsoft determined that the Russians were involved in the hacking effort
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he hadn’t read Microsoft’s report. “What kind of data were they referring to there?” Peskov asked.
“I don’t read Microsoft’s reports, on what basis does Microsoft believe they are Russian hackers? Why, for example, didn’t they come to the conclusion that they were French or German hackers or an Estonian group?”
In 2016, it was discovered that the notorious Russian military intelligence hacker group “Fancy Bear” had attacked the Democratic campaign. The group appears to be back: Microsoft found that the organization recently targeted national and state parties in the United States and consultants working for Republicans and Democrats.
The company said the Russian group had targeted more than 200 organizations, which included “political and political organizations in Europe” as well as election-affiliated groups.
Microsoft has teams that track sophisticated hacking groups, and the report released Thursday provides the most in-depth information on how hackers are targeting elections.
Intelligence officials also said they have uncovered evidence that Russia is currently interfering in the election to damage Biden’s campaign.
The Russian government denied it had attempted to interfere with the 2016 elections, and Peskov said on Friday that Moscow does not interfere and will not interfere in the electoral processes and internal affairs of other countries.
“There were some absolutely baseless allegations, some phobias that there must be Russian cyber monsters behind any cybercrime,” Peskov said of the 2016 allegations.
He added that Microsoft’s claims about Russian interference deserve attention only if there is substantial evidence.
The US intelligence community has estimated that China and Iran prefer Trump to lose in November, but officials have offered no indication, to date, that neither country is acting on that preference in the same way as Russia. according to public statements released by intelligence. community and familiar sources with the underlying evidence.
Samantha Beech, Ramin Mostaghim, Darya Tarasova and Zahra Ullah of CNN contributed to this report.