In an announcement, tech giant Microsoft said it has detected a number of cyberattacks against European organisations, charities, and think tanks – these were, it confirms, sites related to issues surrounding “democracy, electoral integrity, and public policy”.
They are also organisations with connections to various EU and government officials. Among those targeted were, according to the reports, members of the European offices of The Aspen Institute, the German Council on Foreign Relations, and The German Marshall Fund.
In response to the news, Karen Donfried, president of the German Marshall Fund said: “With European parliamentary elections this spring and American presidential elections next year, it is more important than ever that we be vigilant to protect our democracies from foreign interference.
She continued:The risk is not just for candidates and campaigns. Organisations and individuals need to be aware and prepared that malign forces, including sophisticated state actors, seek to exploit them in the digital space.”
Cybercrime and hacking has already been reported as one of the biggest threats to European democracy. The EU’s cyber defense agency has highlighted cyber criminals as being “responsible for at least two-thirds of the incidents registered”.
Further to this, a statement from the Estonian government warned that “in the case of the elections to the European Parliament, a successful campaign against one member state that includes cyber-enabled elements could mean that the assignment of seats cannot be confirmed, thus compromising the entirety of election processes.”
With EU elections coming up in May, and the US presidential elections due to take place next year, Microsoft said it is now “critical that organisations underpinning the democratic process have access to state-of-the-art cybersecurity protection”. In particular, there are fears that there may be attempts to influence the outcomes of these elections.
As part of Microsoft’s Defending Democracy Program, which is being rolled out across European markets, the firm said they would now be strengthening their efforts in preparation for these elections. They said they will be rolling out a free service, known as AccountGuard, to help protect against foreign interference.
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