The American corporation Microsoft claims that Iranian hackers launched an attack against the political elite of the United States, as well as a number of other individuals with the aim of "interfering" in the US presidential election in 2020.
“Today we are reporting on the recent significant cyber-activity that we have been observing from a hacker group called Phosphorus, which, in our opinion, was established in Iran and is associated with the Iranian government ... Over the 30 days of observation between August and September of this year, the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center found that Phosphorus has made more than 2,700 attempts to identify email accounts belonging to certain Microsoft customers, and then attacked 241 of these accounts, ”the company said in a statement.
It is also clarified that the attack involved personalities somehow connected with the American election campaign, as well as current and former civil servants, international journalists and "prominent figures from Iran" living outside this country. However, according to the company, hackers managed to crack accounts in only four cases.
“Although the attacks that we are reporting today were not technically complex, when they were implemented, an attempt was made to use a significant amount of personal data in order to identify the user accounts against which this activity was directed, and in some cases to carry out an attack. All this indicates that the Phosphorus group has sufficient motivation to spend a lot of time and resources on searching and various methods of collecting information, ”Microsoft said.
At the same time, the company noted that they reported on what had happened, so that "national governments and private companies would speak more openly about attacks by states and efforts to disrupt democratic processes."
"Use the info line"
American political scientist Dmitry Drobnitsky believes that IT giants make such statements in order to position themselves as full-fledged political players.
“In this case, in order to most effectively remind everyone of itself in this vein, Microsoft uses such an information guide as interference in the elections, since this topic is widely heard and is very much discussed in American society. Moreover, it’s far from the fact that these attacks were actually carried out, ”says Drobnitsky.
“All these statements look ridiculous, given that the administration of Barack Obama used the computer virus Stuxnet to sabotage the Iranian nuclear program, which as a result was suspended. Washington today continues to practice interference in the affairs of sovereign states, ”said Konstantin Blokhin, an expert at the Center for Security Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
According to Drobnitsky, IT giants like Microsoft are striving to establish their own rules in the global cyberspace.
“They provide platforms for global communication, and at the same time set their own standards for censorship. In fact, they influence the formation of the information agenda, based on their own considerations, and such a trend will acquire increasingly vivid forms over time, ”the expert believes.
At the same time, as analysts emphasize, the views of Donald Trump and Microsoft on the Iranian issue coincide. According to Konstantin Blokhin, the company, blaming Iranian hackers, acts "along with the White House."
“In this way, Washington, using the corporation, demonizes Iran and thereby creates an excuse to further increase pressure. The United States needs its actions in relation to Tehran to be as legitimate as possible and supported by the international community. Because the withdrawal of the United States from the nuclear deal is perceived negatively throughout the world, including by most of its closest allies, ”Konstantin Blokhin believes.
According to Dmitry Drobnitsky, claiming cyber attacks "by the Iranian hackers", Microsoft seeks to enlist the support of Donald trump.
“The company is trying to play on the side of those politicians who could be useful to it. In the event that Trump is elected for a second term, Microsoft will need to somehow live with this. So, in the company’s Republican party environment, it will be necessary to find people who will support the corporation, ”says Drobnitsky.
He recalled that “political flexibility” of this kind is shown not only by Microsoft, but also by Apple.
“The director general of this corporation Tim Cook supported first Hilary Clinton, and then political circumstances changed, and he came to Donald Trump and began to negotiate with him. Aichi companies of this level play by their own rules and will look for any ways how they could influence politicians, ”said the analyst.
"Platform for manipulation"
Washington accuses of “interference” in the election precisely those countries with which it has complex relations, political analysts say.
So, in September at the second annual National Conference on Cybersecurity, the head of the Pentagon, Mark Esper, said that "Russia, Iran, China and the DPRK see cyber warfare as a way of counteracting the United States." At the same time, the Minister of Defense called the Russian Federation and China "strategic competitors" of Washington.
A similar thesis is contained in the report of the United States Department of Homeland Security (IMB), where Russia, China and Iran are called “adversaries”, using cyber opportunities to undermine infrastructure, democratic values and steal US secretaries of state.
Recall that in April, experts from the Atlantic Council * at the US Congress once again accused Moscow of a hacker attack on Democratic Party servers and the spread of the NotPetya virus. However, no evidence of Russian involvement was provided. At the same time, it became known earlier that the Russian State System for Detecting, Preventing, and Eliminating the Consequences of Computer Attacks (GosSOPKA) identified more than 4.3 billion attacks on the critical information infrastructure of the Russian Federation, 25 million of which were aimed at Internet resources dedicated to the 2018 World Cup. At the same time, Nikolai Murashov, deputy director of the National Coordination Center for Computer Incidents (NCCSC), emphasized that Moscow was dealing "with the special services of a foreign state."
In turn, Konstantin Blokhin, commenting on the groundlessness of Washington’s accusations against Russia, Iran and other countries, recalled that even under the administration of George W. Bush, a “concept of rogue countries” was put forward, suggesting that the US official line consists in changing regimes in Iran, Iraq and North Korea.
“However, today Trump has a larger and more ambitious task - to try to create an even larger scale axis of evil. Washington regularly deliberately emphasizes that the partnership between Russia, China and Iran is supposedly intended to undermine US leadership in the world. The White House brings these states to a common denominator and identifies them as a threat in order to consolidate the West, ”the expert noted.
- Mark esper
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Blokhin also emphasized that cyberspace is by far the most promising platform for “waging the wars of the future”.
“Accordingly, large IT corporations are tools for future attacks. Today, the synchronized actions of Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft, as well as other American networks, can be platforms for manipulating information and society, ”the expert concluded.
* “Atlantic Council” - an organization whose activity is recognized as undesirable in the territory of the Russian Federation by decision of the General Prosecutor's Office of July 25, 2019.