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Microsoft: Russia Responsible For Majority Of State-Backed Cyberattacks Last Year

Microsoft said Russian hacking attempts rose to 58 percent of all hacks detected by the company in the 2020-21 period covered by the report.

Microsoft said Russia accounted for most state-sponsored hacking that the software giant has detected over the past year, with hackers mostly targeting U.S. government agencies and think tanks.

In a report released on October 7, Microsoft also highlighted the growing threats of ransomware attacks, saying that the United States was by far the most targeted country.

Microsoft’s Digital Defense report is closely watched by industry experts and governments alike, given how widespread the company’s software products are used across the world.

The report comes as the United States has sounded growing alarms about the dangers of both cyberattacks, as well as ransomware. President Joe Biden’s administration has struggled to understand the full scope of the so-called Solar Winds attack, which saw hackers penetrating deep into U.S. federal agencies. And the White House has urged U.S. companies to urgently update their software and defenses to protect against ransomware attacks.

The cyberattacks, which utilized vulnerabilities in Microsoft software, were widely publicized after their discovery late last year, and U.S. officials have blamed Russia’s foreign intelligence service, known as the SVR, which has denied the activity.

The SVR, along with Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, and the main domestic security service, the FSB, are all known for having active cyberoperations, for both espionage and for potentially damaging attacks.

Other countries highlighted in the report were North Korea, Iran, and China; Microsoft said China accounted for fewer than 1-in-10 of the state-backed hacking attempts detailed in the report, between June 2020 and July 2021.

The scope and depth of the SolarWinds hack stunned many U.S. officials, and there has been a growing call in Congress to retaliate.

At a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in June, Biden sought broad understanding about what sort of cyberactivity would be considered permissible and what would be off-limits.

However, U.S. officials say there has been little evidence of any letup in Russian hacking efforts, either from state-backed or private, criminal groups.

Earlier this week, the head of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said during an event hosted by The Washington Post that U.S. intelligence agencies have seen no significant changes.

In all, Microsoft said, Russian hacking attempts rose to 58 percent of all hacks detected by the company in the 2020-21 period covered by the report, up from 52 percent.

North Korea was second as country of origin at 23 percent. China’s share fell to 8 percent.

Wtih reporting by Reuters
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    Mike Eckel

    Mike Eckel is a senior correspondent reporting on political and economic developments in Russia, Ukraine, and around the former Soviet Union, as well as news involving cybercrime and espionage. He's reported on the ground on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the wars in Chechnya and Georgia, and the 2004 Beslan hostage crisis, as well as the annexation of Crimea in 2014.