Russian, Chinese and Iranian hackers have mounted cyberattacks against hundreds of organizations and people involved in the 2020 presidential race and U.S.-European policy debates, with targets including the campaigns of both Donald Trump and Joe Biden, Microsoft said Thursday.
The report is the most expansive public warning to date about the rapid spread of foreign governments’ efforts to wield hackers to undermine U.S. democracy.
The perpetrators include the same Kremlin-aligned Russian hacking group whose thefts and leaks of confidential Democratic Party documents helped torpedo Hillary Clinton’s presidential hopes in 2016, said Microsoft, which offers products designed to detect such attacks.
Microsoft said Russia’s targets this time included political parties in the U.S. and Europe, while Chinese hackers went after people in Biden’s campaign and Iranians attempted to breach the accounts of Trump’s campaign staff. Hackers also attacked political consultants, think tanks and groups such as the German Marshall Fund and Stimson Center that promote international cooperation.
“The activity we are announcing today makes clear that foreign activity groups have stepped up their efforts targeting the 2020 election as had been anticipated,” Microsoft said in a blog post. It added that its security tools detected and blocked “the majority of these attacks.”
The company did not answer numerous questions from POLITICO seeking more details.
The revelations come amid a feud between congressional Democrats and the administration over what it knows about foreign threats against the election, in particular the Democrats’ accusations that Trump’s intelligence leaders are failing to alert the public about the Kremlin’s activities.
Trump and his supporters have pushed a message that the Chinese are trying to help Biden — a claim not supported by intelligence officials, who have told POLITICO that Russia’s efforts pose the most active and acute danger. A whistleblower’s report released Wednesday also alleged that the president’s appointees at the Department of Homeland Security have sought to suppress or censor reports on Russian influence activities and focus instead on China and Russia.
An official intelligence community statement last month said China prefers that Trump not be reelected, that Russia is denigrating Biden and that Iran is undermining the president.