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Microsoft flags Iranian cyber ops as threat to US 2024 election

Feb 8

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A Microsoft analysis warns Iranian threats have been lurking online and within tech infrastructure, targeting Israel and its allies more frequently since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war. Microsoft’s Threat Analysis Center flagged those threats as Iranian cyber attacks and influence operations, concluding that Iran’s cyber capabilities pose a threat to the 2024 U.S. presidential election.

As first reported by the Register, Microsoft said Iran’s anti-Israel cyber operations may give the U.S. a peek into how it may use cyber operations to influence the 2024 presidential election.

The Microsoft report, released on Wednesday, Feb. 7, alleged that Iran may have its sights set on the upcoming election based on increased cyber operation activity against Israel that Microsoft documented, along with Iran’s past cyber influence campaigns against the U.S.

According to the report, since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war, there has been a noticeable increase in traffic to Iranian state-affiliated news sites. Traffic to those sites was up 42% in the first week of the war and was still 28% above pre-war levels.

The number of cyber-enabled influence operations and the number of Iranian groups that Microsoft tracks also jumped in the first few weeks of the war.

Microsoft-tracked groups increased from nine to 14 in the first two weeks of the war.

On top of that, Microsoft contends that as the war has progressed, Iranian actors have expanded their scope, attacking countries supporting Israel, like Albania, Bahrain, and the U.S.

“By Nov. 22, IRGC-affiliated groups began targeting Israeli-made programmable logic controllers (PLCs) in the United States, including taking one offline at a water authority in Pennsylvania on Nov. 25,” the report read. “PLCs are industrial computers adapted for the control of manufacturing processes, such as assembly lines, machines, and robotic devices.”

All of this, Microsoft alleges, points to Iran building on the cyber operations it launched to subvert the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

“The Department of Justice is announcing the grand jury indictments of two Iranian nationals for their alleged participation in a multifaceted campaign aimed at influencing and interfering with the United States 2020 presidential election,” said FBI Cyber Division Assistant Director Bryan Vorndran after arrests were made related to the Iranian 2020 operation.

Microsoft warns of the possibility of multiple cyber operations targeting the election from not only Iran, but Russia and China as well.

“The increased collaboration we have observed between different Iranian threat actors will pose greater threats in 2024 for election defenders who can no longer take solace in only tracking a few groups,” the report reads. “Rather, a growing number of access agents, influence groups, and cyber actors makes for a more complex and intertwined threat environment.”

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[KARAH RUCKER]

HIDDEN FROM THE BATTLEFIELD IN GAZA WHERE GUNSHOTS CONTINUE TO RING OUT AND BLOOD CONTINUES TO BE SPILLED. AN UNSEEN IRANIAN THREAT HAS BEEN LURKING. IT EXISTS ONLINE AND WITHIN TECH INFRASTRUCTURE, TARGETING ISRAEL AND ITS ALLIES WITH INCREASING FREQUENTLY SINCE THE OCTOBER SEVENTH ATTACK. 

MICROSOFT’S THREAT ANALYSIS CENTER HAS FLAGGED THESE IRANIAN CYBER ATTACKS AND INFLUENCE OPERATIONS, CONCLUDING THAT TEHRAN’S CYBER CAPABILITIES POSE A THREAT TO THE 20-24 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IN THE UNITED STATES.

MICROSOFT SAYS IRAN’S ONLINE ANTI-ISRAEL EFFORTS OFFER A GLIMPSE INTO TO HOW IT MAY USE CYBER OPERATIONS TO INFLUENCE ITS 20-24 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION.

MICROSOFT’S REPORT, RELEASED THIS WEEK, ALLEGES THAT IRAN MAY HAVE ITS SIGHTS SET ON THE UPCOMING U-S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. THE ASSESSMENT BASED ON DOCUMENTED INCREASED CYBER OPERATION ACTIVITY AGAINST ISRAEL AND IRAN’S PRIOR ELECTION INFLUENCE CAMPAIGNS IN THE U-S.

ACCORDING TO THE REPORT, SINCE THE BEGINNING OF THE ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR, THERE HAS BEEN A NOTICEABLE INCREASE IN TRAFFIC TO IRANIAN STATE-AFFILIATED NEWS SITES.

WITH THE NUMBER OF CYBER-ENABLED INFLUENCE OPERATIONS AND THE NUMBER OF IRANIAN GROUPS THAT MICROSOFT TRACKS JUMPING IN THE FIRST FEW WEEKS OF THE WAR.

ON TOP OF THAT, MICROSOFT CONTENDS THAT AS THE WAR HAS PROGRESSED “IRANIAN ACTORS HAVE EXPANDED THEIR SCOPE, ATTACKING COUNTRIES SUPPORTING ISRAEL, LIKE ALBANIA, BAHRAIN, AND THE U-S.

DAVID MUIR ABC WORLD NEWS TONIGHT: “A new bulletin tonight amid this Israeli War tonight there is new concern that Iranian backed hackers might have targeted the water supply system near Pittsburgh the ominous message sent about using equipment made by Israel.”

[KARAH RUCKER]

ALL OF THIS, MICROSOFT SAYS POINTS TO IRAN PICKING UP WHERE IT LEFT OFF AND BUILDING ON THE CYBER OPERATIONS IT LAUNCHED TO SUBVERT THE 20-20** U-S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION.

FBI Cyber Division Assistant Director Bryan Vorndran: “THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE IS ANNOUNCING THE GRAND JURY INDICTMENTS OF TWO IRANIAN NATIONALS FOR THEIR ALLEGED PARTICIPATION IN A MULTIFACETED CAMPAIGN AIMED AT INFLUENCING AND INTERFERING WITH THE UNITED STATES 2020 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION.”

[KARAH RUCKER]

FAST FORWARD TO TODAY – WITH THE 20-24 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION AROUND THE CORNER, MICROSOFT WARNS OF THE POSSIBILITY OF MULTIPLE CYBER-OPERATIONS TARGETING THE ELECTION COMING FROM NOT ONLY IRAN, BUT RUSSIA AND CHINA AS WELL.

IN CLOSING MICROSOFT SAYING IN PART:

“The increased collaboration we have observed between different Iranian threat actors will pose greater threats in 2024 for election defenders who can no longer take solace in only tracking a few groups.