MICROSOFT IS PATTING ITSELF ON THE BACK after uncovering new Russian hacking attempts targeting US political groups ahead of the midterm elections.
The company said on Monday that a hacking group tied to the Russian government created fake internet domains that appeared to spoof two American rightwing thinktanks: the Hudson Institute and the International Republican Institute
Three other fake domains were designed to look as if they belonged to the US Senate, the company added.
Brad Smith, Microsoft's president, remarked: "We're concerned that these and other attempts pose security threats to a broadening array of groups connected with both American political parties in the run-up to the 2018 elections."
Microsoft is attributing the attacks to a hacking group it refers to as 'Strontium', otherwise known as 'Fancy Bear' and 'APT28', which was previously linked to the email hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign.
Smith says that the firm has shut down 84 fake websites associated with the Fancy Bear hacking group in the past two years.
"Attackers want their attacks to look as realistic as possible and they, therefore, create websites and URLs that look like sites their targeted victims would expect to receive emails from or visit," he added. "The sites involved in last week's order fit this description."
The firm's Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) successfully executed a court order to disrupt and transfer control of the dodgy internet domains, according to Microsoft's blog post.
Microsoft's latest discovery comes just weeks after the firm said it helped the US government detect and block Russian hacking attempts on at least three congressional candidates this year.
Tom Burt, Microsoft's vice president for customer security, said the three candidates were "people who, because of their positions, might have been interesting targets from an espionage standpoint as well as an election disruption standpoint".
The hacks came in the form of attacks launched against the candidates' staff, which were apparently attempted phishing attacks, redirecting them to a fake Microsoft website in an attempt to steal their credentials.
"Earlier this year, we did discover that a fake Microsoft domain had been established as the landing page for phishing attacks," Burt added.
"And we saw metadata that suggested those phishing attacks were being directed at three candidates who are all standing for election in the midterm elections."
Immediately after learning of the incident, Microsoft took down the fake domain and worked with the government to "avoid anybody being infected by that particular attack", while also ensuring that none of the targeted campaign staffers were infected.
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