Chinese, Iranian hackers tried to hack Biden, Trump campaigns, Google says


Joe Biden and Donald Trump supporters in Kansas City, Missouri. 

Kyle Rivas/Getty Images

Hackers backed by the Chinese and Iranian governments were caught in an attempted cyberattack against the Trump campaign and the Biden campaign, Google said Thursday. 

Google’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG) detected the phishing attempt — a cyberattack where hackers try to lure victims into clicking on a link and giving up sensitive credentials. 

“Recently TAG saw China APT group targeting Biden campaign staff & Iran APT targeting Trump campaign staff with phishing. No sign of compromise,” Shane Huntley, the head of TAG, said in a tweet

He added that Google sent a warning to the targeted campaign staffers, and alerted federal law enforcement officials about the attempted cyberattack.

“We can confirm that our Threat Analysis Group recently saw phishing attempts from a Chinese group targeting the personal email accounts of Biden campaign staff and an Iranian group targeting the personal email accounts of Trump campaign staff. We didn’t see evidence that these attempts were successful. We sent the targeted users our standard government-backed attack warning and we referred this information to federal law enforcement,” Google said in a statement. “We encourage campaign staff to use extra protection for their work and personal emails, and we offer security resources such as our Advanced Protection Program and free security keys for qualifying campaigns.” 

The company said the attacks were targeting multiple campaign staffers for both Trump and Biden, and these attacks went after their personal accounts. 

The Trump campaign and Biden campaign did not respond to a request for comment. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency also did not respond to a request for comment. 

This is not the first time that Iranian hackers have targeted the Trump campaign. Last October, Microsoft discovered more than 2,700 attempts to hack a presidential campaign, including Trump’s. Chinese hackers have also been accused of major cyberattacks against the US, including the Equifax breach and attempts to steal coronavirus vaccine research.  

The 2016 US presidential election showed how much influence a cyberattack can have on the democratic process after Russian hackers infiltrated the Democratic National Committee’s servers as well as staff members on Hillary Clinton’s campaign.  

Since then, government agencies like CISA have ramped up efforts on election security, as have tech giants like Google and Microsoft. 

Google introduced its Advanced Protection Program in 2017 and has advised campaign staffers to lock down their personal accounts along with their work accounts. Microsoft has a similar service through its Defending Democracy program

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