09:50 GMT +316 October 2018
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    Moscow: Microsoft's Claim of Russian Meddling Designed to Exert Political Effect

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    On November 6, 2018, the US will hold mid-term congressional elections. The Americans will vote on the fate of all 435 seats in the House of Representatives; there are also 33 US Senate races.

    Microsoft Corporation claims that it has recorded new attempts by hackers to influence the congressional elections in the United States, according to the official website of the company.

    According to the company, hackers created sites and URLs which were very similar to web pages considered "interesting to potential victims." For example, some such pages imitated the Senate website, while others were clones of the site of the International Republican Institute, whose board of directors includes several senators.

    "We are concerned about these and other attempts to create a security threat for a wide range of people associated with US political parties ahead of the 2018 elections. Overall, this picture reflects what we saw during the 2016 elections in the US and in 2017 in France," the report said.

    At the same time, Bradford L. Smith, Microsoft's President and Chief Legal Officer, said that there was no doubt that Russian hackers targeted every single presidential candidate in the recent French election.

    The official further noted that the hackers were targeting both — the Republicans and the Democrats in the United States.

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    Commenting on the allegations, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the claims given in the report were groundless.

    "We do not know what kind of hackers they are referring to, we do not know what the impact on the elections is. We see that the United States confirms that there was no influence on the elections… We do not understand what are the grounds for this, what is Fancy bear, what Russian military intelligence has to do with it, what is the basis for these accusations, rather serious ones, therefore they seem groundless," Peskov told reporters.

    The Russian Foreign Ministry, in its turn, expressed regret over allegations by Microsoft of attempts by Russian government-linked hackers to launch attacks on US legislative bodies and think tanks ahead of November's congressional elections.

    "It is regrettable that a large international company, which has been actively and successfully working on the Russian market for a long time, has to participate in the 'witch hunt' that swept Washington. Apparently, it is done to demonstrate its loyalty. This is their choice. We will have to draw the necessary conclusions," the ministry said in a statement.

    The ministry stressed that Microsoft's allegations were not supported by any evidence and were clearly aimed to achieve maximum political and public "wow effect."

    Last week, the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit complied with a court order to transfer control over six domains created by a "group closely related to the Russian government." This group is known under the names Strontium, Fancy Bear and APT28.

    Earlier, independent special prosecutor Robert Muller, investigating "Russia's interference" in the US presidential election, said that Strontium was involved in the hacking of the emails of Hillary Clinton — the main rival of Donald Trump. However, he did not provide any concrete evidence.

    The Russian authorities have repeatedly refuted any accusations of interference in elections abroad, including through hacker attacks.

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    elections, hackers, Microsoft, United States, Russia
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