Vladimir Putin’s Fancy Bear hackers 'meddling in US election again after targeting Democratic state parties'

RUSSIAN hackers targeted the email accounts of Democrats in California and Indian, it has been claimed.

Vladimir Putin's infamous Fancy Bear cyber warriors are also alleged to have targeted influential think tanks in Washington and New York.

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The Russian hackers have been attempting to target the US in the run up to the election on November 3, reports Reuters.

Four sources familiar with the matter reportedly confirmed the attacks on the Democratic Party email accounts.

US officials warned in August that Russian operations were attempting to undermine the campaign of presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Fancy Bear is controlled by Russia’s military intelligence agency and was responsible for hacking the email accounts of Hillary Clinton’s staff in 2016.

The group is believed to part of a military unit working for Russia's top intelligence agency GRU.

Democratic National Committee spokesman Chris Meagher said it was “no surprise” that foreign actors were attempting to interfere with the election.

The Donald Trump campaign did not return messages asking for comment by the news agency.

The Russian Embassy in Washington said it does not interfere in America’s internal affairs and denied any link to “Fancy Bear,” calling the allegation “fake news.”

The Indiana Democratic Party said in a statement it was “unaware of any successful intrusions".

California Democratic Party chief Rusty Hicks acknowledged being targeted, but stopped short of naming Fancy Bear.

He reportedly said in an email that “the effort by the foreign entity was unsuccessful.”

Fancy Bear also went after targets such as the  the Center for American Progress, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

It comes after Microsoft claimed last month, Russia – along with China and Iran – have been attempting to access email accounts linked to people in the Trump and Biden campaigns.

The firm published a blog post which revealed it has tracked Fancy Bear targeting more than 200 organizations since last September.

Many of these are associated with the upcoming US Election including the campaigns, think tanks and political consultants.

Microsoft said the hackers have also gone after businesses in the entertainment, hospitality, manufacturing, financial services and physical security industries.

It warned the Russian hackers tactics are becoming more sophisticated, with new tools designed to conceal their shady operations.

In a statement, Microsoft said: "We disclose attacks like these because we believe it’s important the world knows about threats to democratic processes.

"It is critical that everyone involved in democratic processes around the world, both directly or indirectly, be aware of these threats and take steps to protect themselves in both their personal and professional capacities."

It added: "Similar to what we observed in 2016, [Fancy Bear] is launching campaigns to harvest people’s log-in credentials or compromise their accounts, presumably to aid in intelligence gathering or disruption operations."

Fancy Bear is said to be using tactics such as launching attacks through 1,000 constantly rotating IP addresses to conceal their activities.

US and British intelligence agencies have both raised the alarm about the activities of Russian hackers – including Fancy Bear – attempting to spread disruption,

It is not believed any of the hack attacks targeted voting or other official election systems.

John Hultquist, director of intelligence analysis for the cybersecurity firm FireEye, told the Washington Post: "We think Russian military intelligence poses the greatest foreign threat to the elections.

"It’s concerning to find them targeting organizations associated with campaigns again."

Meanwhile, Microsoft also identified Chinese hacking group, dubbed, Zirconium and Iranian cyber warriors, known as Phosphorus.

The Chinese hackers also attempted to meddle in the US election as they have launched "thousands" of attacks since March.

Iranian hackers also attempted to target organisations "traditionally tied to geopolitical, economic or human rights interests in the Middle East region".

It also attempted to compromise Trumps' presidential campaign and log into the account of administration officials between May and June.

In a statement, Microsoft said: "We believe more federal funding is needed in the US so states can better protect their election infrastructure.

"While the political organisations targeted in attacks from these actors are not those that maintain or operate voting systems, this increased activity related to the US electoral process is concerning for the whole ecosystem.

"We continue to encourage state and local election authorities in the US to harden their operations and prepare for potential attacks.

"But as election security experts have noted, additional funding is still needed, especially as resources are stretched to accommodate the shift in Covid-19-related voting."

More to follow…

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