Microsoft has issued a new report warning of ongoing and sophisticated cyberattacks by foreign actors ahead of the 2024 U.S. presidential election.
The report states that Russia, Iran, and China are likely to engage in new influence and interference efforts to shape the outcome of the election in their favor. [Source]
“For Russia, Iran and China, the next U.S. president will define the direction of conflict — whether wars might occur, or peace might prevail,” the report by Microsoft’s Threat Analysis Center (MTAC) says. It predicts that all three governments are “unlikely to sit out next year’s contest — the stakes are simply too high.”
According to the analysis, Russia remains “the most committed and capable threat” to the 2024 election, as it sees the contest as a “must-win political warfare battle” that will determine the fate of the Ukraine War.
Hackers based in Russia have already targeted Republican and Democratic consultants, think tanks, national and state party organizations, and political parties in the U.S. and the U.K., seeking to steal login credentials or breach accounts.
The report also says that Russia is likely to use generative AI to create more realistic and persuasive multimedia content to spread propaganda and disinformation.
Iran and China, meanwhile, are expected to ramp up their cyberattacks and influence operations, as they perceive the next U.S. president as a key factor in their regional conflicts and interests.
Iran may try to undermine U.S. democratic institutions and the president through online content, while China may prefer a candidate who is less confrontational on trade and human rights issues.
Both countries have also targeted people and organizations involved in the 2020 election, such as the Trump and Biden campaigns, as well as prominent individuals in the international affairs community.
The report warns that the 2024 presidential election could be the first in which “multiple authoritarian actors simultaneously attempt to interfere with and influence an election outcome.” It also notes that the social media landscape has changed since the previous elections, and that foreign actors are likely to use more visual and interactive platforms, such as memes, gifs, podcasts, video clips, and influencers, to reach and manipulate their audiences.
U.S. intelligence were concerned of Russia, China, and Iran interferece in the 2020 election. The Treasury Department sanctioned four people with links to Russia, including a Ukrainian lawmaker who met with Rudy Giuliani, for attempting to influence the U.S. presidential election. [Source]
Microsoft’s Threat Analysis Center urges the U.S. government, the tech industry, and civil society to work together to defend democracy and counter the foreign threats. Microsoft has released recommended security steps to help protect elections.