A hacking group who appears to be linked to the Iranian government have attempted to hack their way into President Ronald Trump’s re-election campaign.
Microsoft said earlier via a blog post that it saw “significant” cyber activity by the group which also targeted current and former U.S. government officials & journalists covering global politics and prominent Iranians living outside of Iran.
Trump’s official campaign website is the only one of the remaining contenders’ sites that is linked to Microsoft’s cloud email service. As per Tim Murtaugh, Trump’s campaign Director of Communications – “We have no indication that any of our campaign infrastructure was targeted.”
Between August and September, more than 2,700 attempts have been made by the group dubbed as “Phosphorous ” by Microsoft. Their were trying to identify email accounts belonging to specific customers and once they have narrowed it down will eventually try to attack it. There were at least 241 targeted accounts. Four got compromised. However these 4 accounts were not associated with the U.S. presidential campaign or current and former U.S. government officials.
Nineteen Democrats are targeting to have their party’s nomination to run for the coming November 2020 election. A total of three Republicans have announced their candidacy to challenge Trump.
The blog posted by Microsoft did not specify the election campaign who was targeted by Phosphorous hackers, but according to Reuters sources, it was dialed in to Trump’s re-election effort.
Chris Krebs, director of the Homeland Security Department’s election security division, known as CISA, said he was aware of the Microsoft report.
Krebs said that – “yet more evidence that our adversaries are looking to undermine our democratic institutions.”
Nothing is safe in the internet. Anyone can be a target. Even elections, campaigns, political persons, are not safe.
Over the years that technology has evolved, hackers have now delved in to interfering with elections which has become a concern for any government. Russia was even linked once to the American democratic process propaganda back in 2016. It was said they helped Trump become president.
U.S. had previously withdrawn from a 2015 international nuclear accord with Tehran which had put limits on its nuclear program in exchange for easing of sanctions. Due to this, tension has risen since May 2018. Trump has since reinstated U.S. sanctions, increasing pressure on the Iranian economy, including its oil trade.
The Iranian government did not issue any immediate comment through state-run media on Microsoft’s statement.
Phosphorus is also known as APT 35, Charming Kitten, and Ajax Security Team.
Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft said Phosphorous used information gathered from researching their targets or other means to game password reset or account recovery features and attempt to take over some targeted accounts.
This is a typical run of the mill standard attacks and not technically sophisticated as per Microsoft.
“This effort suggests Phosphorous is highly motivated and willing to invest significant time and resources engaging in research and other means of information gathering,” their blog said.
Since 2013, they have been active and in March, Microsoft has received a court order to take control of 99 websites the group used to execute attacks.
Even back in 2016, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign was hacked by in cyber attack on Democratic Party political organizations in that U.S. election.
Tech companies are expected and under pressure to exponentially increase their security for next years’ election and others all over the world.
Major companies including Facebook, Google Microsoft and Twitter met with U.S. intelligence agencies earlier in September to discuss security strategies.