Hackers with suspected ties to the Russian government launched new assaults on human rights groups and government agencies, including email accounts used by the State Department’s international aid agency, Microsoft revealed late Thursday.
Microsoft Vice President Tom Burt disclosed the breach in a blog post, saying the “wave of attacks” targeted about 3,000 email accounts across 24 countries, at more than 150 organizations involved in international development and humanitarian work.
The U.S. received the largest share of attacks, Burt said.
The discovery of the cyberattack comes just a few weeks before President Joe Biden is due to meet with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin at a summit in Geneva and adds to the growing list of complaints Biden is likely to bring up with Putin in Switzerland.
Geneva summit: Biden to meet with Putin on June 16 in Switzerland
What is Nobelium?
“These attacks appear to be a continuation of multiple efforts by Nobelium to target government agencies involved in foreign policy as part of intelligence gathering efforts,” Burt, who is Microsoft’s vice president of customer security and trust, wrote in the post.
Microsoft said Nobelium is the same group responsible for the SolarWinds hack, a sweeping cyberattack that compromised at least half a dozen U.S. federal agencies including the Department of Homeland Security and Energy Department, as well as thousands of companies in the private sector. U.S. intelligence agencies believe the SolarWinds hack is the work of SVR, Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service.
Biden last month expelled Russian diplomats and announced new sanctions on Russia in retaliation for the massive SolarWinds hacking operation, which began in early 2020 but was only discovered in December that same year. GCHQ, Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre, also believes the Kremlin was likely behind the SolarWinds breach.
Russia denies any involvement in the SolarWinds hack, but SVR director Sergei Naryshkin said in mid-May that he was “flattered” by the accusations from Washington and London. Russia has not commented on the new Nobelium hacking allegations.
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