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Joe Biden in Detroit, Michigan on Sept. 9 and President Trump on Sept. 10. Photos: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images and Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Cyberattacks organized in Russia, China and Iran have targeted the 2020 election, President Trump's and former Vice President Joe Biden's campaigns this year, Microsoft said in a blog post on Thursday.

The big picture: The 2020 presidential election is rife with opportunities for foreign actors to sow chaos, since results will likely be delayed due to record mail-in ballots. Protests for racial justice and calls to restructure policing in the U.S. also give Russia an opportunity to spread disinformation.

What they found: Microsoft found that Russian hackers have consistently targeted Republican and Democrat consultants, political advocacy groups and national party organizations affiliated with the 2020 election since September of last year.

  • Hackers based in China levied thousands of attacks between this March and September, some of which included unsuccessful attacks against Biden's campaign and one high-level person formerly involved with the Trump campaign.
  • Attacks from a group operating in Iran unsuccessfully tried to log into accounts of Trump administration officials as well as Trump's re-election staff between May and June.

Driving the news: The Department of Homeland Security's intelligence branch warned law enforcement last week that it believes Russian-controlled social media trolls and state media are likely to continue trying to sow distrust in U.S. election results and mail-in ballots.

  • The nation's top counterintelligence official said in July that Russia, China and Iran present the most pressing threats for election interference in the 2020 presidential race.
  • The Justice Department charged a Russian national on Thursday of "a sweeping plot to sow distrust in the American political process," AP reports, although the agency only referenced her involvement in attempting to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections, not the 2020 election.

What they're saying: "We are aware of reports from Microsoft that a foreign actor has made unsuccessful attempts to access the non-campaign email accounts of individuals affiliated with the campaign," Biden campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement.

  • "We have known from the beginning of our campaign that we would be subject to such attacks and we are prepared for them," Bates said.
  • "As President Trump’s re-election campaign, we are a large target, so it is not surprising to see malicious activity directed at the campaign or our staff. We work closely with our partners, Microsoft and others, to mitigate these threats," Trump campaign spokesperson Thea McDonald said in a statement.

Go deeper

Biden promises retaliation for cyberattack on government agencies

Joe Biden speaking in Atlanta on Dec. 15. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President-elect Biden on Thursday said that a suspected Russian cyberattack on multiple government agencies and U.S. companies "is a matter of great concern" and promised to impose "substantial costs" to those responsible for the attack.

Driving the news: Biden's statement came just hours after the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency alerted that evidence suggested that additional malware was used in what it described as “a grave risk to the Federal Government and state, local, tribal, and territorial governments as well as critical infrastructure entities and other private sector organizations.”

Mike Allen, author of AM
Dec 18, 2020 - Technology

Cyberhack looks like act of war

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A Trump administration official tells Axios that the cyberattack on the U.S. government and corporate America, apparently by Russia, is looking worse by the day — and secrets may still be being stolen in ways not yet discovered.

The big picture: "We still don't know the bottom of the well," the official said. Stunningly, the breach goes back to at least March, and continued all through the election. The U.S. government didn't sound the alarm until this Sunday. Damage assessment could take months.

Romney: White House should "say something aggressive" on Russian cyberattack

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) called on the White House to “aggressively” condemn a suspected Russian cyberattack in an interview with SiriusXM on Thursday evening.

Why it matters: Since news broke that hackers tied to Russia penetrated U.S. government networks and companies, public officials including President-elect Biden have come forward with rebukes. President Trump has been largely silent, though the White House has held emergency meetings with officials across agencies to address the breach, per Bloomberg.