Microsoft Says Hackers Have Been Targeting Think Tanks Ahead of European Elections

Microsoft announced it is increasing its cybersecurity for think tanks in the U.S. and abroad, ahead of the European Parliament elections.

The company said that it has detected attacks against employees of the German Council on Foreign Relations, The Aspen Institutes in Europe, and The German Marshall Fund through its Threat Intelligence Center and Digital Crimes Unit.

“We believe the work of organizations like The German Marshall Fund and its Alliance for Securing Democracy are an essential part of efforts to secure democracies against those who seek to undermine it,” Microsoft Customer Security & Trust Vice President Tom Burt said in a blog post. “Many organizations essential to democracy do not have the resources or expertise to defend themselves against cyberattacks.”

The cyber attack targeted more than 100 accounts across Europe between September and December 2018. Microsoft said its ongoing investigation leads it to believe that Strontium, a Russian-linked hacker group, carried out the attack.

As a response to the hacks, Microsoft is expanding its cybersecurity service AccountGuard, which is part of its Defending Democracy Program, to 12 more European countries. France, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal, Slovakia, and Spain will now have access to Microsoft AccountGuard.

Tech companies across industries are preparing for more election interference efforts as poll dates near. Earlier this month, YouTube announced that it would no longer suggest conspiracy theory videos in an effort to curb the spread of misinformation.

Microsoft said tech companies “have a responsibility to help” to protect governments against cyber attacks and election interference. As more companies work to combat this worldwide issue, companies like Facebook are trying to clean up messes caused in previous elections.


How to Prevent Yourself From Being Hacked

Photo: CreateHerStock

The internet is the gateway to so many opportunities, and for some people, it has become just as important to their daily lives as the food they eat. On the flip side, the internet makes us vulnerable to a lot of individuals or organizations with malicious intent.

With information being so easy to access these days, all anyone needs to become a hacker is just a computer and internet access. This makes every single internet user a potential victim of hacking. Fortunately, there are actions you can take to protect yourself from hackers. Here are a few of them.

Enter private information on secure websites only

There are numerous websites claiming to be trustworthy all in the bid to rope you into divulging sensitive information like passwords or credit card details. You have to ensure that the website is authentic before you enter sensitive details into any field. A good way to check is to make sure the connection with the site is “https://”, which means the site is encrypted and secure, as opposed to “http://”.

Use tough passwords

Many people use their birthdays or names of their loved ones as their passwords because they find it convenient and easy to remember. The problem with this is that your passwords become easy to guess in an attempt to hack your accounts.

To keep your accounts safe, use passwords that are a mix of numbers, punctuations, and upper and lower case alphabets. This is by far the most basic thing to do to keep hackers away.

Clear cookies from your browser regularly

Cookies make your user experience a lot better when you visit websites.  They are pieces of data that the website stores on your computer when you visit. They help the website take note of who each visitor is. The danger this poses is that your data and device can be put at risk if a hacker places malicious cookies on your computer.

You can easily clear cookies from your browser by going to settings, then ‘clear browser data’, then ‘clear cookies’.

Be wary of free WiFi

Always make sure that before you connect to any public WiFi, you confirm that it is secure. A good way to do this is by asking those who work there. Hackers set up false networks and bait people into connecting. If you are unlucky and you fall for this, they will proceed to steal data from your computer once you have connected.

Just as important, whenever you finish using a public WiFi, ask your device to forget the network, so it doesn’t connect automatically whenever you’re around.

Download from trusted sites only

Some websites are created by hackers with the intent of baiting individuals and letting them download malicious files on their computers. Make sure whatever site you are downloading from is authentic, so as to avoid being hacked.

Make use of a VPN

A VPN (virtual private network) encrypts and secures all information leaving and entering your computer through the internet. It protects you by hiding your IP address, and then it assigns another IP address to you from another location, making it impossible for hackers to track you. It grants you anonymity while surfing the internet.