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Microsoft crackdown uncovers more Russian cyber-attacks

Microsoft (MSFT) has come out with a politically sensitive disclosure that could bring a new twist in the US-Russia relations, amidst the controversy over alleged interference of Russian agencies in the last presidential polls. The software giant’s claim of stopping recent cyber-attacks against the Senate members by Russian hackers, with the involvement of military intelligence, comes three months before the US mid-term elections.

The digital intrusion detected by Microsoft last week, which also targeted conservative think tanks, is believed to be part of a coordinated attack against those who are critical of Kremlin and call for more stringent policies against Russia.

In an effort to prevent such attacks from happening in future, Microsoft is working on a security mechanism called AccoundGuard, under the recently launched Defending Democracy Program. Once rolled out, it will initially be available free of cost to all political groups and government agencies that use Microsoft Office 365. The service, which also benefits candidates of the upcoming election and campaign officials, will be expanded to other parts of the world in a phased manner.

In an effort to prevent such attacks, Microsoft is working on a security mechanism called AccoundGuard

According to Microsoft, an organization named Fancy Bear, which is suspected to have carried out similar attacks in 2016 at the behest of Russian intelligence agencies, is trying to interfere with the online activities of candidates and political entities, in the run-up to the election, using a technique called spearphishing.

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The manipulation came to the fore after the company, pursuant to a court order, took control of six websites with names like ‘senate.group’ and ‘adfs-senate.email’ being used by the organization for the illegal activity. The websites have been created so as to look like domains providing some of the services of Microsoft, which prompted the company to seek legal action. However, only a detailed investigation with the participation of the potential targets will reveal whether cyber-attacks were carried out successfully.

So far, the probe showed that though anyone who visits the websites could fall prey to the fraud, Senate members and think tanks are more vulnerable as hackers can trick them into sharing sensitive information by sending fake emails.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin reportedly denied having knowledge of any Russian entity trying to meddle with the US mid-term polls. Earlier, President Donald Trump had dismissed all allegations of Russian interference in the political affairs of the country, including the 2016 election.

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