Google: Chinese and Iranian Hackers Targeted Campaigns of Biden and Trump


Google warned that foreign hackers targeted the campaigns of President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden during recent phishing attacks.

Reuters reported that cyberattacks targeting Trump staffers originated in Iran, while similar attacks against the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee were traced to China.

Both of the attempted hackings were state-sponsored, according to Shane Huntley, the head of Google’s Threat Analysis Group.

“Recently TAG saw China APT group targeting Biden campaign staff & Iran APT targeting Trump campaign staff with phishing,” Huntley reported on Twitter.

“No sign of compromise. We sent users our govt attack warning and we referred to fed law enforcement,” he said.

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Huntley also shared a company blog post about email security that offers advice on how to avoid “government-backed phishing.”

“One of the main threats to all email users (whatever service you use) is phishing, attempts to trick you into providing a password that an attacker can use to sign into your account,” the blog post noted.

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“Beyond phishing for the purposes of fraud, a small minority of users in all corners of the world are still targeted by sophisticated government-backed attackers,” Google said.

Reuters reported that the most recent attempt at hacking Trump’s campaign is not the first to originate in Iran.

Microsoft warned that a hacker group known as “Charming Kitten” targeted the president’s campaign in 2019.

Reuters reported that the same group has been identified by Google as the one behind the recent attempt to compromise Trump staffers.

A Biden campaign staffer commented on the attempted Chinese-sponsored attack, telling Reuters the campaign has been prepared for such an event.

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“We are aware of reports from Google that a foreign actor has made unsuccessful attempts to access the personal email accounts of campaign staff,” the Biden campaign staffer said.

“We have known from the beginning of our campaign that we would be subject to such attacks and we are prepared for them,” the staffer added.

Reuters reported that Russian hackers targeted companies associated with Burisma Holdings — where Biden’s son Hunter was a highly paid board member — earlier this year.

The wire service noted that the Trump campaign declined to comment on the matter, as did the FBI, Chinese diplomats in Washington and Iranian diplomats at the United Nations in New York.

Google is taking a proactive approach to issuing alerts about electronic espionage during the 2020 campaign after the subject became a heated topic in 2016, when Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign emails were obtained and released by Wikileaks.

Huntley warned on Twitter that people working on political campaigns should expect to become targets of online attacks.

“If you are working on a campaign this election cycle, your personal accounts may be targeted. Use the best protection you can,” Huntley wrote.

“Two factor authentication or Advanced Protection really can make a difference,” the Google security head added.

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Johnathan Jones has worked as a reporter, an editor, and producer in radio, television and digital media.
Johnathan "Kipp" Jones has worked as an editor and producer in radio and television. He is a proud husband and father.