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Microsoft halts Russian ‘political hack on US’

Washington, Tuesday

Russian attempts to launch cyber-attacks against US conservative groups have been thwarted, Microsoft says. The software company said Russian hackers had tried to steal data from political organisations, including the International Republican Institute and the Hudson Institute think tanks.

But they had been thwarted when its security staff had won control of six net domains mimicking their websites. Microsoft said the Fancy Bear hacking group had been behind the attacks.

“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 said in its blog detailing its work.

The thwarted attack was likely the start of a “spear phishing” campaign, said Microsoft. This would involve tricking people into visiting the mimicked domains allowing the Fancy Bear group to see and steal login information that people use.

As well as the two think-tanks, the domains seized were associated with several Senate offices and services. One domain sought to mimic Microsoft’s Office 365 online service. Russia has denied Microsoft’s allegations that it targeted the right-wing think-tanks.

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow was “unaware” of any attempted interference by Russia-linked hackers in the US mid-term elections.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump has said he is worried he might face perjury charges if he gives statements under oath to the investigation into Russia’s alleged role in his election victory.

He told Reuters news agency he feared any discrepancies between his account and others could be used against him.

Trump also suggested he could take over the investigation run by special counsel Robert Mueller, but said he’d decided to stay out of it. He has called the inquiry a witch hunt.   -BBC

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