Microsoft Says Iranian Hackers Are Targeting a 2020 Presidential Campaign

The Democratic National Committee has asked campaigns to investigate possible incursions.

Avishek Das/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

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Microsoft announced Friday that it had uncovered a hacking group associated with the Iranian government that had targeted journalists, current and former government officials, and at least one US presidential campaign.

The company released a statement saying that four consumer Microsoft email accounts had been compromised by a group its calling “Phosphorous,” but that those accounts did not belong to anyone associated with a presidential campaign or the government. The attackers were first observed making more than 2,700 attempts to identify specific Microsoft accounts over a 30-day period beginning in August, Microsoft said, and then targeted 241 specific accounts with phishing emails, fake LinkedIn accounts, and password-reset requests.

“While the attacks we’re disclosing today were not technically sophisticated, they attempted to use a significant amount of personal information both to identify the accounts belonging to their intended targets and in a few cases to attempt attacks,” wrote Tom Burt, a Microsoft vice president overseeing customer security. “This effort suggests Phosphorous is highly motivated and willing to invest significant time and resources.”

The Democratic National Committee also issued a warning to campaigns on Friday revealing that the committee had been contacted by Microsoft, suggesting they check system logs for a related IP address, and offering advice as to how to defend against such attacks.

The announcement comes amidst President Donald Trump’s urging the governments of Ukraine and China to get involved in the 2020 election by investigating former Vice President Joe Biden, one of his chief political rivals and among the most prominent Democratic candidates to replace him.

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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