VLADIMIR Putin’s cyber warriors have launched a campaign hacking attacks on the US election, tech giant Microsoft has revealed.
Russia’s notorious Fancy Bear hackers are said to have targeted presidential hopefuls Donald Trump and Joe Biden in a bid to sow chaos.
Microsoft claimed China and Iran have also been attempting to access email accounts linked to people in the Trump and Biden campaigns.
The firm published a blog post which revealed it has tracked Fancy Bear targeting more than 200 organisations since last September.
Many of these are associated with the upcoming US Election including the campaigns, think tanks and political consultants.
Fancy Bear, also known as Strontium, previously attempted to cause chaos in the 2016 election.
The hackers broke into the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
The group is believed to part of a military unit working for Russia’s top intelligence agency GRU.
Microsoft said the hackers have also gone after businesses in the entertainment, hospitality, manufacturing, financial services and physical security industries.
It warned the Russian hackers tactics are becoming more sophisticated, with new tools designed to conceal their shady operations.
In a statement, Microsoft said: “We disclose attacks like these because we believe it’s important the world knows about threats to democratic processes.
“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.”
It added: “Similar to what we observed in 2016, [Fancy Bear] is launching campaigns to harvest people’s log-in credentials or compromise their accounts, presumably to aid in intelligence gathering or disruption operations.”
Fancy Bear is said to be using tactics such as launching attacks through 1,000 constantly rotating IP addresses to conceal their activities.
Microsoft added that political parties in the UK were also targeted – but did not give any further details.
Russia dismissed earlier reports it had targeted the Biden campaign as “nonsense” after another specific attack was reported by Reuters.
Putin’s regime has repeatedly denied using hacking to try and interfere with other country’s elections.
US and UK intelligence agencies have both raised the alarm about the activities of Russian hackers – including Fancy Bear – attempting to spread disruption,
It is not believed any of the hack attacks targeted voting or other official election systems.
John Hultquist, director of intelligence analysis for the cybersecurity firm FireEye, told the Washington Post: “We think Russian military intelligence poses the greatest foreign threat to the elections.
“It’s concerning to find them targeting organizations associated with campaigns again.”
Meanwhile, Microsoft also identified Chinese hacking group, dubbed, Zirconium and Iranian cyber warriors, known as Phosphorus.
The Chinese hackers also attempted to meddle in the US election as they have launched “thousands” of attacks since March.
At least 150 of these had successfully breached security measures.
China targeted the Biden for President campaign and also went after “at least one prominent individual formerly associated with the Trump Administration”.
It is also focusing on attempting to compromise academics from at least 15 universities and 18 think tanks.
Iranian hackers meanwhile also attempted to target organisations “traditionally tied to geopolitical, economic or human rights interests in the Middle East region”.
It also attempted to compromise Trumps’ presidential campaign and log into the account of administration officials between May and June.
Microsoft however said it managed to seize 155 internet domains used by Phosphorus
Trump campaign deputy national press secretary Thea McDonald said: “We are a large target, so it is not surprising to see malicious activity directed at the campaign or our staff.”
In a statement, Microsoft said: “We believe more federal funding is needed in the US so states can better protect their election infrastructure.
“While the political organisations targeted in attacks from these actors are not those that maintain or operate voting systems, this increased activity related to the US electoral process is concerning for the whole ecosystem.
“We continue to encourage state and local election authorities in the US to harden their operations and prepare for potential attacks.
“But as election security experts have noted, additional funding is still needed, especially as resources are stretched to accommodate the shift in Covid-19-related voting.”