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Russian intelligence hackers are back, Microsoft warns, targeting Democrats and Republicans

The Biden campaign said they were “aware of reports from Microsoft that a foreign player has made unsuccessful attempts to access non-campaign email accounts of people associated with the campaign,” and that they are preparing for the inevitable the attack in the coming weeks. . Although the campaign did not confirm the company’s reporting, it has taken issue with the Director of National Intelligence’s assessment, issued several weeks ago, that Chinese leaders prefer Mr. Biden over Mr. Trump.

The Microsoft investigation also concluded that hackers related to Russia’s GRU, the military intelligence unit that oversaw the “hack and leak”

; effort in 2016 that made emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign public, went to new lengths to hide their tracks. They direct some of the attacks through Tor, a service that hides the attackers’ whereabouts and identity, which slowed down efforts to identify the hackers.

So far, Microsoft officials said they did not find evidence that the hacking effort was successful this year, but company officials noted that they had limited views on Russia’s overall operations. They can not say definitively that no materials were stolen, or what Russia’s motivation may be. That, they said, was the role of US intelligence officials.

Microsoft’s findings come just two weeks after the director of national intelligence, John Ratcliffe, declared that he would no longer allow intelligence agencies to provide detailed, personal briefings on election interference to Congress. He said the restrictions were due to leaks.

In a statement, Christopher Krebs, head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at the Department of Homeland Security, said, “We are aware that Microsoft has discovered attempts to compromise the email accounts of individuals and organizations associated with the upcoming election.”

Mr. Krebs noted that “no one is involved in maintaining or operating polling stations and there was no identified impact on the electoral systems.” He also said that the company’s “announcement is in line with previous statements by the intelligence community about a number of malicious online activities targeting the 2020 campaign and reinforces that this is an all-of-nation attempt to defend democracy.”

Mr. Krebs, who was Microsoft’s leader before joining the Trump administration, said his agency on Thursday issued “guidelines for improving network protection against account compromise attacks.”

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