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Photo: Matthias Balk/picture alliance via Getty Images

In a blog post Tuesday night, Microsoft announced hackers tried to breach accounts belonging to European think tanks late last year. While investigations are underway, Microsoft is "confident" many of the attempts came from the espionage group Fancy Bear, which the United States government has attributed to Russia.

The big picture: Fancy Bear — or as Microsoft calls the group, Strontium — is best known in the United States for hacking the Democratic National Committee and other political targets during the 2016 election. Notably, the German Marshall Fund runs a Russian social media disinformation tracking site known as Hamilton 68.

Details: The European hacking attempts took place between September and December, according to Microsoft.

  • The hackers targeted 104 accounts belonging to employees of the German Council on Foreign Relations, as well as the European offices of The Aspen Institute and The German Marshall Fund situated in Belgium, France, Germany, Poland, Romania, and Serbia.
  • The hackers attempted to use phishing websites and emails to steal credentials and deliver malware.
  • Microsoft says it quickly notified the affected think tanks.

Think tanks are a valuable target for spies because they often have close ties with government officials and behind the scenes data on governance or from the government.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Virginia attorney general fires Jan. 6 investigator from university post

McIntire Amphitheater at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia. Photo: Robert Knopes/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The lead investigator for the Jan. 6 House select committee investigating the Capitol riot has been fired from his position as the University of Virginia's counsel by the state's new Republican attorney general, per the Washington Post.

Why it matters: Democrats say the removal of Tim Heaphy from his post after some three years while he's on leave from the university to investigate the insurrection is likely "retribution" for the House probe — an accusation strongly denied by the office of state Attorney General Jason Miyares (R).

5 hours ago - World

Taiwan's military scrambles jets after detecting 39 Chinese warplanes

J-20 stealth fighter jets in Zhuhai in the Guangdong Province of China last year. Photo: Chen Jimin/China News Service via Getty Images

Taiwan's defense force said 39 Chinese warplanes flew into its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) on Sunday.

Why it matters: The largest Chinese air force incursion into the zone since October came a day after the U.S. and Japanese navies conducted a joint exercise in the Philippine Sea.

6 hours ago - Sports

Gonzaga University revokes NBA great John Stockton's tickets over mask stance

Former Utah Jazz player John Stockton during a 2017 press conference in Salt Lake City. Photo: Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Gonzaga University suspended the season tickets of notable alumni John Stockton after the NBA Hall of Famer failed to comply with the school's basketball games mask mandate, the Spokesman-Review first reported.

Driving the news: "Basically, it came down to, they were asking me to wear a mask to the games and being a public figure, someone a little bit more visible, I stuck out in the crowd a little bit," the former Utah Jazz point guard told the outlet in an interview Saturday.