Chinese and Iranian hackers tried to sabotage the Biden and Trump campaigns

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Joe Biden and Donald Trump supporters in Kansas City, Missouri.

Kyle Rivas/Getty Images

Hackers backed by the Chinese and Iranian governments were intercepted in a cyberattack attempt against the Donald Trump and Joe Biden campaigns, Google confirmed on Thursday, June 4.

The Google Threat Analysis Group (TAG) detected an attempt to phishing, a type of computer attack in which hackers try to lure victims into clicking on a link and stealing their credentials.

“Recently, TAG discovered a Chinese APT group attacking Biden campaign employees and an Iran APT group attacking those of the Trump campaign by phishing. There is no indication that personal data has been compromised, “Shane Huntley, head of TAG, said in a tweet. APT stands for” advanced persistent threat, “a label applied to hacking groups by cybersecurity specialists.

Huntley explained in a statement released June 4 that Google sent a warning to campaign employees and alerted federal law enforcement officials to cyberattack attempts.

“We can confirm that our TAG recently encountered attempts to phishing from a Chinese group targeting the personal email accounts of Biden’s campaign staff and an Iranian group targeting the personal email accounts of Trump’s campaign staff, “Google said.” We saw no evidence that these attempts were successful. We send selected users our standard government-backed attack warning and forward this information to federal law enforcement. We encourage the staff of both campaigns to use additional protection in their work and personal emails and offer security resources such as our advanced protection program and free security keys for campaigns, “he added.

The company said the attacks were directed at multiple employees, from both the Trump and Biden campaigns and that the attacks were against their personal accounts. Biden’s campaign said he had been alert to the attacks.

“We are aware thanks to Google reports that an external agent has unsuccessfully attempted to access the personal email accounts of campaign staff,” the Biden campaign said in a statement. “We have known from the start of our campaign that we could be the target of such attacks and are prepared for them. Biden takes cybersecurity seriously, we will remain vigilant to these threats and ensure that the campaign is secure.”

The cybersecurity and infrastructure agency (CISA) said it planned to share details of the hacking attempt with congressional campaigns, as well as with state and local officials.

“We are not surprised that they are targeting our elections. We have been warning about this for years. Our job at CISA is to make sure they are not successful,” a CISA official said in a statement. “That is why today’s announcement shows that secure and resilient elections are much more important than state and local efforts, or even the federal government. The private sector has a key role, as does the American voter.”

The Trump campaign confirmed that it had been informed of the attempted hacking. “We are vigilant about cybersecurity and take every possible precaution,” the campaign said.

This is not the first time that Iranian hackers have been accused of attacking the Trump campaign. In October 2019, Microsoft said it had discovered more than 2,700 hacking attempts against a presidential campaign, including that of Trump. Chinese hackers have also been accused of major cyber attacks on the United States, including the Equifax rape and attempts to steal the coronavirus vaccine investigation.

The 2016 US presidential election showed how much influence a cyber attack can have on the democratic process, after Russian hackers infiltrated the servers of the Democratic National Committee, as well as the email accounts of staff members. in the Hillary Clinton campaign. Since then, government agencies like CISA have stepped up electoral security efforts and so have tech giants like Google and Microsoft.

The Chinese, Iranian, and Russian governments have routinely denied involvement in such cyber attacks.

Google introduced its advanced protection program in 2017 and has advised campaign employees to protect their personal accounts in addition to their work accounts. Microsoft has a similar service through its Defending Democracy program.


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