The same Russian military intelligence outfit that hacked the Democrats in 2016 has attempted similar intrusions into the computer systems of more than 200 organizations, including political parties and consultants, Microsoft said Thursday. Those efforts appear to be part of a broader increase in targeting US political campaigns and related groups, the company said. "What we've seen is consistent with previous attack patterns that not only target candidates and campaign staffers but also those who they consult on key issues," Tom Burt, a Microsoft vice president, said in a blog post. Most of the infiltration attempts by Russian, Chinese, and Iranian agents were halted by Microsoft security software and the targets notified, he said. The company would not comment on who may have been successfully hacked or the impact, the AP reports.
Microsoft did not assess which foreign adversary poses the greatest threat to the integrity of the November presidential election. The consensus among experts is that the answer is Russia. "This is the actor from 2016, potentially conducting business as usual," said John Hultquist of cybersecurity firm FireEye. "We believe that Russian military intelligence continues to pose the greatest threat to the democratic process." The Microsoft post shows that Russian military intelligence continues to pursue election-related targets undeterred by sanctions, US indictments, and other countermeasures, Hultquist said. The same GRU military intelligence unit, known as Fancy Bear, that Microsoft said is behind the current activity broke into voter registration databases in at least three states in 2016. (Russia has been warned.)