A group of hackers that has a history to work with Russian Intelligence attacked the US Think Tanks in Europe, revealed by Microsoft on February 20, 2019.
The group of hackers with the name of “Fancy Bear” is the one who is behind this attack. If you don’t know this hacker group also came into notice when they hacked “Democratic National Committee” back in 2019.
The same group targeted “The Aspen Institute” and “German Marshall Funds of US,” according to Microsoft. Moreover, the same hackers also attacked the General Council on Foreign Relations.
“We’ve seen and continue to see efforts by nation-states and others to influence elections in democracies around the world including in Europe,” Tom Burt, Microsoft’s vice president of customer trust and security, said in a blog post.
“These attacks are not limited to campaigns themselves but often extend to think tanks and non-profit organizations working on topics related to democracy, electoral integrity, and public policy and that is often in contact with government officials,” he added.
The attacks on the highly valuable think tanks happened between September and December 2018.
The organization did not reveal anything regarding the hackers were successful or not. However, they told that when it happened, they immediately ask for help and support to secure their systems.
In further investigation, the official representative of “The German Marshall Fund” told CNN Business:
“It didn’t appear that its systems had been compromised as a result of the hacking attempt.”
Moreover, German Marshall’s President “Karen Donfried recommended that:
“The organization may have been targeted because its work has included supporting efforts to combat alleged attempts by Russia. And other nations to “undermine democracy and democratic institutions.”
European Elections Are Coming
“Consistent with campaigns against similar US-based institutions, attackers in most cases created malicious URLs. And spoofed email addresses that look legitimate,” Burt wrote in the Microsoft post. “These spearphishing campaigns aim to gain access to employee credentials and deliver malware.”
Last year in August, according to Microsoft, Fancy Bear had attacked the US Senate. Moreover, last month the same group of hackers had attacked another think thanks located at Washington.
Thus it is clear that the announcement by Microsoft on Tuesday is an alarming notification for European Parliament Elections in May.
Further, according to the scenario, Microsoft confirms to provide its AccountGuard service to more than 12 countries in Europe. The list of countries includes France and Germany.
What is AccountGuard?
It is Microsoft’s cybersecurity service for political parties, NGO institutions, and private institutions. This AccountGuard service is only for those organizations that are working on democracy challenges.
This service is already available to campaigns in Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the United States. Since protecting privacy is now becoming impossible, I guess it is a very impressive service offer by Microsoft.
Primarily what we saw last year when Cambridge Analytica helped a political party to win US elections.
Microsoft pointed to “hacking and disinformation attacks” on France’s presidential election in 2017 as a previous example of a European democracy grappling with cyber interference.
The campaign of Emmanuel Macron, who eventually won the election, said at the time that it was the victim of a “massive and coordinated hacking operation.”