Hackers target US presidential campaign, Microsoft reports | News | DW | 04.10.2019
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Hackers target US presidential campaign, Microsoft reports

Microsoft has said hackers linked to Iran have targeted US media figures, government officials and prominent Iranians living abroad. According to reports, Donald Trump's reelection campaign was among those targeted.

Microsoft announced on Friday that a hacking group allegedly linked to the Iranian government has carried out a campaign against a US presidential candidate.

The US tech giant declined to identify which campaign had been targeted, citing privacy reasons. But Reuters reported, citing sources familiar with the matter, that President Donald Trump's reelection campaign was attacked.

The president’s campaign website is the only one of the main 2020 contenders that is linked to Microsoft's cloud email service, according to publicly available mail exchanger records.

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"We have no indication that any of our campaign infrastructure was targeted," said Tim Murtaugh, director of communications for the Trump campaign.

The hacker group, which Microsoft named Phosphorous, made more than 2,700 attempts in a 30-day period between August and September to identify customer email accounts. The hackers managed to hack into 241 of them, said Microsoft.

Read more: Germany debates stepping up active cyberoperations

Current and former US government officials and journalists covering global affairs, in Iran and elsewhere, were also targeted by the group. They were especially interested in prominent Iranians living abroad.

Tom Burt, Microsoft's corporate vice president for customer security and trust, made the announcement in a blog post on Friday.

"It is important that we all — governments and private sector — are increasingly transparent about nation-state attacks and efforts to disrupt democratic processes," he wrote.

Read more: Facebook exempts politicians' posts from fact-checking

'Not technically sophisticated'

Burt said four accounts had been compromised, but none of these were linked to the presidential campaign. He described the attacks as "not technically sophisticated" but warned all users to "be vigilant."

Hackers were apparently attempting to gather information about people through password reset processes and account recovery features.

Friday's announcement comes after US officials had already warned about potential attempts to hack the 2020 presidential election.

For the 19 Democratic presidential candidates, the playing field remains broad and a forerunner has yet to emerge.

The Iranian government did not immediately offer a response to Microsoft's claim. 

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ed, jcg/cmk (Reuters, AP)

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