Biden and Trump campaigns targeted by Chinese and Iranian hackers: Google

Biden and Trump campaigns targeted by Chinese and Iranian hackers: Google
Chinese and Iranian hackers have targeted the campaign staff of United States Democrat Joe Biden and President Donald Trump in the run up to the 2020 presidential election.
3 min read
Chinese and Iranian hackers have targeted the US presidential campaign[Anadolu/Getty]
Hackers from Iran and China have targeted the campaign staff of Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden and President Donald Trump, a senior Google security official said on Thursday.

Chinese hackers targeted Biden's campaign staff and Iranian hackers targeted the email accounts of Trump's staff, the head of Google's Threat Analysis Group Shane Huntley tweeted.

Huntley said neither campaign showed "sign of compromise", Reuters reported.

"We sent users our govt attack warning and we referred to fed law enforcement," he added.

Iranian hacking activity has been reported before. Microsoft revealed last year that hackers linked to the Iranian government targeted a US presidential campaign, as well as government officials, media targets and prominent expatriate Iranians.

Overall, the hackers attempted to penetrate 241 accounts - four successfully - though none of those penetrated was associated with presidential campaigns or current or past US officials, Microsoft said. A company spokeswoman declined to identify those targeted, citing customer privacy. 

Google's announcement is the latest sign that foreign governments are looking for ways to potentially disrupt the 2020 presidential election. US intelligence officials have sounded the alarm about the risks for months.

Foreign hackers have long targeted US government and politicians, generally with little notice. But the disruption caused by Russia's attack has heightened awareness and prompted fears that other nations will try to follow Russia's example.Russia's hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign, as well as the subsequent leaks of emails during the 2016 election roiled the DNC, hurt the Clinton campaign and was a focal point in special counsel Robert Mueller's probe.

Iran in particular could have a stake in the outcome of the US election after President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from a nuclear agreement and stepped up sanctions against the country.

"We sent the targeted users our standard government-backed attack warning and we referred this information to federal law enforcement," a Google representative told Reuters.

Cyberattacks also appear to be targeting coronavirus information.

American drugmaker Gilead Sciences, which has developed the antiviral remdesivir shown to be effective against the coronavirus, was targeted by hackers with ties to IranReuters reported in May.

Read more: Clash of the internet: The rise of Iran's cyber warfare against US and the Gulf

In a separate report in April, Reuters reported hackers "working in the interests of the Iranian government" had attempted to break into email accounts of staff at the World Health Organisation during the pandemic.

In comments to Reuters at the time, Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesperson for Iran's mission to the United Nations, denied the country’s involvement in cyber warfare. 

"Cyber activities Iran engages in are purely defensive and to protect against further attacks on Iranian infrastructure," Miryousefi was quoted as saying.

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