2 min Security

Microsoft: Russians trying to influence European elections

Microsoft: Russians trying to influence European elections

According to Microsoft, recent hacker attacks aimed at European democratic organisations have their origins in the hacker group Fancy Bear. This group is said to have links with the Russian intelligence services and focuses on civil society. The hackers seem to be hoping to influence the May European elections.

Microsoft’s vice president of customer safety Tom Burt announced in a blog that he is certain that the hacker group Fancy Bear, also known as Strontium, is responsible for recent cyber attacks. These focus on more than a hundred e-mail accounts of think tanks and ngos that perform work related to the upcoming elections, nuclear policy and foreign relations.

Disinformation and influence

Hack attacks on election-related agencies and attempts to influence citizens with disinformation is a relatively new, but major problem. During the American presidential elections of 2016, the Russians are said to have actively campaigned against candidate Hillary Clinton. The US Attorney General Robert Mueller continues to investigate alleged links between the Russian government and President Donald Trump’s campaign.

Despite this, the Russian government seems to be actively trying to help anti-EU parties by spreading disinformation and hacking into certain organisations. According to Microsoft’s Tom Burt, the number of attacks on democratic institutions within the European Union has increased considerably in recent times. These attacks focus not only on campaigns themselves, but often also on think tanks and non-governmental organisations working on issues such as democracy, electoral integrity and policy. These organisations are often in direct contact with government officials.

Security of elections

Recent attacks have focused on 104 e-mail accounts of bodies involved in the forthcoming European elections. Microsoft is still investigating the case, but is certain that many of the attacks originate from the hacker group Fancy Bear. That group would have links to Russian intelligence.

The attacks took place between September and December 2018, writes Burt in his blog. They focused on The Aspen Institute and The German Marshall Fund, among others. We notified all organizations as soon as possible so that they could take steps to secure their systems and took various technical measures to protect customers from these attacks.

Burt’s fear is that the number of attacks will only increase in the coming period, especially as the moment of the elections is fast approaching.

This news article was automatically translated from Dutch to give Techzine.eu a head start. All news articles after September 1, 2019 are written in native English and NOT translated. All our background stories are written in native English as well. For more information read our launch article.