One of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s main campaign advisory firms was recently briefed by Microsoft about attempts by suspected Russian state-sponsored hackers to infiltrate their networks, according to three unnamed sources who spoke with Reuters.
The hackers reportedly targeted SKDKnickerbocker (SKDK), a campaign strategy firm working with Biden and other Democratic candidates. The three sources told Reuters they were briefed on the matter after the hacking attempts were flagged by Microsoft.
One source told Reuters the hacking attempts were not successful and the firm’s networks “are well-defended, so there has been no breach.”
The hacking attempts reportedly involved phishing techniques aimed at tricking people into giving up their passwords, as well as “other efforts to infiltrate SKDK’s network.”
One of the sources also told Reuters it was unclear if the infiltration effort was targeting Biden or other SKDK clients.
SKDK managing director Anita Dunn was a White House communications director for former President Barack Obama. SKDK’s prior work includes efforts on behalf of several successful Democratic candidates, as well as support for LGBT rights cases and gun control ballot measures.
SKDK Vice Chair Hilary Rosen declined Reuters requests for comments on the alleged cyber incident.
A Biden campaign spokesperson also declined to comment on the matter.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reportedly dismissed the hacking allegations as “nonsense” and maintained Moscows denial of any hacking efforts to undermine other countries elections.
The reported cyber incident comes after the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released a public report in which it determined the Russian government favors President Donald Trump and would seek to undermine Biden, while the Chinese and Iranian governments prefer Trump loses his bid for reelection.
U.S. intelligence officials, investigators and members of Congress have all investigated Russia’s role in the 2016 election, including allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. While Special Counsel Robert Mueller established no coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia and a recent Senate Intelligence Committee Report similarly assessed “no collusion” both Mueller and the Senate report described Russian efforts to influence vulnerable members of Trump’s campaign.
Reuters reported Mueller also warned of continued Russian efforts to interfere in the 2020 U.S. elections.
In a recent interview with CNN, Attorney General Bill Barr said he accepts “that there is some preliminary activity that suggests [Russia] might try again” to interfere in the U.S. election. Barr also said he believed Russia would follow an observed pattern of “hack and dump” tactics, which involve infiltrating vulnerable information networks, stealing unflattering and embarrassing documents and then releasing those documents publicly.
Despite his assessment of the threat Russia may try to tip the balance of the election, Barr said he believes China poses the most aggressive threat to the election, though he would not provide specifics to explain his assessment. Barr previously described a “full-court Blitzkrieg” by China to influence the election, promoting coronavirus disinformation and throttling the supplies of medical equipment needed by other countries.