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Iran hacking team accused of targeting US election campaign

June 5, 2020 at 3:35 pm

US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in Iowa ,US on 18 January 2020 [Gage Skidmore/Wikpedia]

Iran has been named as one of the two countries to be running a state backed hacking operation, in an attempt to access sensitive information from the campaign teams of US President Donald Trump and the Presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. The other is China.

Details of the hacking operation were uncovered by Google Threat Analysis Group (TAG). “Recently TAG saw China APT group targeting Biden campaign staff & Iran APT targeting Trump campaign staff with phishing,” tweeted Shane Huntley, director for Google’s Threat Analysis Group. He said that there was “no sign of compromise” and that both the affected users and federal law enforcement were notified.

In a separate tweet, yesterday, Huntley explained APT31 was a Chinese backed hacking group and APT35 was an Iranian backed hacking group, both of which are said to be known to the threat analysis team for targeting government officials.

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Biden’s election team acknowledged that it was targeted saying “we are aware of reports from Google that a foreign actor has made unsuccessful attempts to access the personal email accounts of campaign staff.”

“We have known from the beginning of our campaign that we would be subject to such attacks and we are prepared for them . . . We will remain vigilant against these threats, and will ensure that the campaign’s assets are secured,” it added.

Trump’s campaign team is reported saying that it had been briefed on the unsuccessful hacking attempt, but would not share more details on the cyber security precautions it has in place.

There was no indication as to whether the hacking groups of Iran and China had any connection.

State backed hacking has become a major security threat, especially since the 2016 US election, when Russia is alleged to have aided Trump’s victory. Since then firms like Cambridge Analytica were exposed for hacking into personal accounts of social media users to influence the result of elections.

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Saudi Arabia was one of the many countries to be embroiled in scandal involving the use of Facebook to spread misinformation through fake campaigns promoted on the pages of the social media giant. The Gulf state had also targeted many of its opponents through hacking technology developed by Israeli firms.

Governments and technology giants across the world have since been on high alert. Increased sophistication in hacking is, however, making it harder to track if an electronic device is being targeted by state backed phishing operations.