Fake versions of several US political institutions’ websites were made to trick people with a goal of hacking into their computers by a group affiliated with the Russian government, according to Microsoft which announced its discovery Monday and disabled the websites.
Acting on a court order, last week the company seized control of six fake websites involved in such efforts. The group has made phony versions of websites related to American public policy, the US Senate, the Hudson Institute, and the International Republican Institute (IRI).
The websites were created in the past several months, and they were caught early as they were being set up, Microsoft said while not going into more specifics.
The finding revealed the identity of the hacking group as APT28, which is the same group that had been linked to a Russian intelligence agency and was believed to have interfered in the US 2016 presidential election.
US officials have been warning that the coming vote, in November, will be the target of interference efforts, and these latest events show the serious role that Russian operatives are playing ahead of the midterm congressional elections in the US.
Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit lead the process of finding and disabling the websites, and the company is launching efforts to cyber-protect campaigns and election agencies that use its products.
There is no evidence that the websites were used in attacks, according to Microsoft, but what is for sure is that visitors can be tricked by emails to open these websites, and doing so allows the attackers to hack their computers and steal their emails and all other documents they might have on their computers.