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Microsoft says Russian cybercriminals targeting sports, anti-doping organizations

Then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter tours the Microsoft Cybercrime Center in Seattle, March 3, 2016. Carter spoke at a Microsoft-hosted breakfast as part of his efforts to strengthen ties between the Department of Defense and the tech community. (Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Tim D. Godbee/Department of Defense)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Microsoft has said that a Russian cybercriminal group has again been targeting sports organizations and anti-doping authorities for attacks.

Strontium, also known as Fancy Bear/APT2, has targeted at least 16 national and international sporting and anti-doping organizations in various countries, the U.S.-based technology company said in a statement on October 28.

“Some of these attacks were successful, but the majority were not. Microsoft has notified all customers targeted in these attacks and has worked with those who have sought our help to secure compromised accounts or systems,” the company said in the statement.

Microsoft said Strontium launched the attacks on September 16, shortly before the World Anti-Doping Agency publicly announced Russia could face a ban from all major sports events due to inconsistencies in data its Moscow laboratory had submitted.

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Microsoft said the cybercriminal group has targeted similar organizations in the past. Strontium released medical records and e-mails from sporting and anti-doping officials in 2016 and 2018, the company said.

Strontium uses various methods to get access to their computers, including phishing — the practice of sending e-mails that appear to be from legitimate companies or organizations requesting information, including login details.

“The methods used in the most recent attacks are similar to those routinely used by Strontium to target governments, militaries, think tanks, law firms, human rights organizations, financial firms, and universities around the world,” Microsoft said.

Microsoft recommended people protect themselves and their organizations from attack by enabling two-factor authentication on all e-mail accounts, learning how to spot phishing schemes, and enabling security alerts to spot dangerous websites and files.