The NY Times and other publications ran a story “New Russian Hacking Targeted Republic Groups, Microsoft Says” (see: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/21/us/politics/russia-cyber-hack.html, which is also a photo source.) Digging a bit I found an original source from Microsoft see: http://bit.ly/2Mp5wgT, another photo source).
The lead for that story is “We are taking new steps against broadening threats to democracy” which is an entry in Microsoft on the Issues, The Official Microsoft Blog. That entry replete with informative hotlinks, addresses how the US general election in 2016 and the May 2018 French presidential elections were tampered with.
Microsoft goes on to describe that “Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) successfully executed a court order to disrupt and transfer control of six internet domains created by a group widely associated with the Russian government and known as Strontium, or alternatively Fancy Bear or APT28.”
As a software superhero, Microsoft is using its powers only for good and will provide Microsoft AccountGuard, “state-of-the-art cybersecurity protection at no extra cost to all candidates and campaign offices at the federal, state and local level, as well as think tanks and political organizations we now believe are under attack. The technology is free of charge to candidates, campaigns and related political institutions using Office 365.” (Emphasis added by the Blog Writer)
Interestingly enough, a search of the Microsoft website for “AccountGuard” (https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/search/result.aspx?q=AccountGuard) pulls up only two results, neither of which relates to the product noted above. Check out the screenshot.
What does this all mean? There are two key takeaways:
1. Stronger security can be a marketing advantage if properly used to buoy a product’s perceived level of security. Microsoft is facing increasing competition from Google’s G-Suite as large organizations, especially government organizations and schools move away from Office.
2. The Russians have clear guidance on the purpose of cyber influence. They understand how to blend and bend technology to alter the information people see and to influence their votes.
As to the second point, it appears to me that the US has adopted a version of Henry Stimson’s “Gentlemen don’t read each other’s mail” which effectively killed SIGINT by hobbling our Cyber Influence efforts because “Nations don’t interfere with the politics of other nations to support their own goals and objectives”.