Microsoft shuts down Russia-linked sites targeting U.S

by Abel Hampton August 24, 2018, 14:07
Microsoft shuts down Russia-linked sites targeting U.S

A blog post by Microsoft Monday said it executed a court order to shut down the websites created by a group tied to Russian intelligence, known as Strontium.

A federal grand jury in the US indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers earlier in July on charges of hacking the computer networks of 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. Three other fake sites were created to look as if they belonged to the U.S. Senate.

The Hudson Institute mainly focuses on American national security and foreign policy issues while the International Republican Institute promotes the foreign policy ideas of the US Republican Party, focusing on attitudes to America overseas.

The fake websites in the most recent attempts appeared to mimic domains associated with the conservative nonprofits Hudson Institute and International Republican Institute. They included such innocuous domains as senate.group and office365-onedrive.com. Microsoft says it caught these particular sites early and that there's no evidence they were used in hacking.

Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith speaks during the annual Microsoft shareholders meeting in Bellevue, Washington. He adds that the latest activity "clearly suggests" that the hacker group is focusing on conservative organizations.

Microsoft said it is still trying to determine "what Strontium meant to do with the domains".

Microsoft timed this announcement to the release of its AccountGuard Initiative, another component of this program. Users were redirected to fake pages where they were asked to enter usernames and passwords.

Microsoft on Tuesday disclosed new intrusions by Russian government-linked hackers on USA political groups.

"We are concerned by the continued activity targeting these and other sites and directed toward elected officials, politicians, political groups and think tanks across the political spectrum in the United States", Smith wrote.

Several Western European government, including Sweden, Germany, France and the Netherlands, have documented efforts by the same bodies to interfere in their politics in the past three years, sparking a broader effort to fight back. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska.

"It is clearly created to sow confusion, conflict and fear among those who criticize Mr. Putin's authoritarian regime", Twining told The Washington Post.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied that the Russian government played a role in the incidents or had links to the hackers.

The FBI says it's aware of actions taken by Microsoft to take down fake websites that parroted those of US political organizations.

The new revelations come just weeks after Microsoft discovered that the computer network of Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat running for re-election, had been targeted unsuccessfully by Russian hackers.

Experts welcomed the move but cautioned that it would do little to disrupt any Russian state-backed cyber-espionage.

Lawmakers and members of Trump's own administration, however, have offered more concrete assessments. Last month, Russian intelligence targeted Sen. Microsoft was able to thwart those attacks.

But the important moment was the setting up of the Defending Democracy Program earlier this year, out of which has emerged AccountGuard, a free service that it says will defend political candidates at national, state and local levels of U.S. democracy from hackers.


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