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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

Top economic regulators stressed by vacancies

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The boom times are all around us (from corporate deal sprees to the breakneck rise of cryptocurrency) — and the agencies in charge are stretched thin trying to police it.

Why it matters: Overwhelmed staff and a slew of vacant posts could set back President Biden's big regulatory agenda.

GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley announces run for re-election

Photo: Greg Nash/The Hill/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the longest-serving Senate Republican, announced on Friday that he's running for re-election in 2022.

Why it matters: The GOP is looking to regain control of both chambers of Congress in the upcoming midterm elections. Several Republicans had urged the 88-year-old senator to run to avoid another retirement after five incumbent senators said they wouldn't seek re-election.

China deems all cryptocurrency transactions illegal

A person walking past China's central bank in Beijing in August 2007. Photo: Teh Eng Koon/AFP via Getty Images

China's central bank declared on Friday that all cryptocurrencies are illegal, banning crypto-related transactions and cryptocurrency mining, according to Reuters.

Why it matters: China's government is now following through with its goal of cracking down on unofficial virtual currencies, which it has said are a financial, social and national security risk and a contributor to global warming.