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Russia, China hackers targeting US vote, Microsoft warns

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WASHINGTON: Microsoft said on Thursday (Sep 10) it had thwarted recent cyberattacks from China, Russia and Iran targeting both Republican and Democratic presidential campaigns, as technology giants scrambled to protect election security less than two months ahead of the US vote.

Twitter announced it would implement a policy next week to remove "false or misleading information intended to undermine public confidence in an election," including unverified claims of victory, and Google said it would take steps to ensure its "auto complete" search feature avoids any misleading or false claims.

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Microsoft said in a security blog that attackers have been targeting staff from the campaigns of President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival, Joe Biden.

"In recent weeks, Microsoft has detected cyberattacks targeting people and organisations involved in the upcoming presidential election, including unsuccessful attacks on people associated with both the Trump and Biden campaigns," said corporate vice president Tom Burt.

"The activity we are announcing today makes clear that foreign activity groups have stepped up their efforts targeting the 2020 election as had been anticipated, and is consistent with what the US government and others have reported."

The attackers have been active against political operatives, think tanks, consultants and political parties in Europe as well, Microsoft said.

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It identified a Russia-based group called Strontium which Burt said "has attacked more than 200 organisations" and China-based Zirconium, which he said "has attacked high-profile individuals associated with the election, including people associated with the Joe Biden for President campaign and prominent leaders in the international affairs community."

An Iran-based group dubbed Phosphorus has been targeting personal accounts of people associated with the Trump campaign, Microsoft said.

"The majority of these attacks were detected and stopped by security tools built into our products," Burt said.

"We have directly notified those who were targeted or compromised so they can take action to protect themselves."

TWITTER RAMPS UP DEFENCE

Twitter's new policy in effect from Sep 17 bans "false or misleading information" about voting as well as "disputed claims that could undermine faith in the process itself," such as allegations of election rigging, ballot tampering, vote tallying or certification of election results.

The move comes amid rising concerns about when results will be verified for the Nov 3 presidential election, in view of an expected large volume of mail-in ballots – a process under attack from President Donald Trump who has spent months attacking its integrity.

The new policy prohibits "misleading claims about the results" or interference with the electoral process such as "claiming victory before election results have been certified, inciting unlawful conduct to prevent a peaceful transfer of power or orderly succession."

Some analysts have suggested that Trump may reject the election results or refuse to leave office if he loses, while Trump himself has spent months suggesting Democrats were attempting to "rig" the election and refusing to say whether he will accept the results.

Both Twitter and Facebook have placed labels on Trump posts about on mail-in voting – sent out to his tens of millions of followers.

The Twitter Safety team said it expects to take a strict approach to the upRead More – Source

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