Thousands of customers targeted by state supported cyber attacks, says Microsoft

Cyber security
Cyber security Pixabay

The tech giant Microsoft stated that they have informed nearly 10,000 customers that the company has been targeted or compromised in some of the state-supported cyber attacks.

Microsoft's corporate vice president for consumer security and trust, Tom Burt stated in a blog post that 84 percent of these data breach incidents were aimed at enterprise customers and 16 percent of such attacks affected the personal email accounts of consumers.

It also revealed that the cybersecurity activities in past years were originated from actors in three countries, which are "Iran, North Korea and Russia."

"We have seen extensive activity from the actors we call Holmium and Mercury operating from Iran, Thallium operating from North Korea, and two actors operating from Russia we call Yttrium and Strontium."

As per Burt, this data, which has been compiled by the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center and works every day to track these global threats, showed that the attacks continue to be a significant tool and weapon wielded in cyberspace."

He also mentioned in some instance such breaches appeared to be related to "ongoing efforts to attack the democratic process".

In addition, the blog post also clarified that since the launch of its AccountGuard in 2018 August, Microsoft has uncovered attacks which mostly targeted organizations that are fundamental to democracy.

"We have steadily expanded AccountGuard, our threat notification service for political campaigns, parties, and democracy-focused non-governmental organisations (NGOs), to include 26 countries across four continents," Burt mentioned.

However, it should be noted that almost 800 instances of cyber-attacks were detected by Microsoft that was launched against political organisations, while 95 per cent of them had targeted US-based institutions and bodies. These organizations also include NGOs and think tanks.

Burt stated that the cybersecurity threats reflect a particular pattern, which the company also observed in the early stage of some previous elections. In this pattern, the cybercriminals targeted NGOs and think tanks as these platforms "work closely with candidates and political parties, or work on issues central to their campaigns, serve as a precursor to direct attacks on campaigns and election systems themselves."

Such attacks were noticed during the 2016 US Presidential Election in 2016 as well as in the last French Presidential election, said Burt.

Burt also believes that this time he is expected to see more attacks targeting US election systems, as well as political campaigns and NGOs.

Recently, US President Donald Trump revealed that the US conducted a cyber attack against a Russian entity. When the Fox News' Steve Hilton asked Trump about a report that he personally authorized a cyber attack on Russia, he replied, "I would rather not say that." In addition, he stated that "but you can believe that the whole thing happened, and it happened during my administration," during the 2018 midterm elections.