Microsoft Corp. says that SKDKnickerbocker (SKDK), one of the advisory firms working on Joe Biden’s election campaign, was targeted by Russian state-backed hackers, according to a report from Reuters.
The Washington-based campaign strategy and communications firm was targeted with phishing (i.e. tricking staff into disclosing passwords) and other attacks over the past two months, according to sources cited by Reuters.
A source familiar to the story told Reuters that the consultancy was not breached. “They are well-defended, so there has been no breach,” they said.
SKDK has a long history of working with the Democrats, having advised the party on six presidential campaigns.
Microsoft identified the hackers as “Fancy Bear,” a hacker group overseen by GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency. Fancy Bear was previously blamed for hacking into Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and leaking emails from her staff.
The Kremlin denied any wrongdoing, with spokesperson Dmitry Peskov saying the allegations were “nonsense.”
Microsoft tied Fancy Bear to the attacks through analysis of hacking techniques and network infrastructure, according to the report.
The technology giant has been increasingly calling out state-backed hacking, having in 2018 launched its Defending Democracy initiative aimed at safeguarding campaigns from cyberattackers. Microsoft has exceptional visibility into cyberattacks through its widely used operations system and popular cloud services such as Office 365.
The intelligence community last month warned that foreign actors would once again be attempting to influence US elections. Investigations from special counsel Robert Mueller and the Senate intelligence committee previously concluded that Russian government affiliates interfered in the 2016 presidential election to try to help Donald Trump get elected.