Russia Already Meddling In US Election, Microsoft Warns

Microsoft has warned that Russian influence campaigns have already begun targetting the upcoming US Presidential election (albeit at a slow pace), running alongside operations to undermine US support for Ukraine.

Microsoft in a blog post said that “foreign malign influence in the US presidential election got off to a slower start than in 2016 and 2020 due to the less contested primary season.”

The second Microsoft Threat Intelligence Election Report also noted that Russian efforts are focused on undermining US support for Ukraine, while China seeks to exploit societal polarisation and diminish faith in American democratic systems.

Russian influence campaigns

The Microsoft Threat Analysis Center (MTAC) noted that Russia is “deeply invested in undermining US support for Ukraine” and Russian influence operations (IO) have picked up steam in the past two months.

MTAC said it has tracked at least 70 Russian actors engaged in Ukraine-focused disinformation, using traditional and social media and a mix of covert and overt campaigns.

It cited the threat actor that Microsoft tracks as Storm-1516, has successfully laundered anti-Ukraine narratives into US audiences using a consistent pattern across multiple languages.

Typically, this group follows a three-stage layered process:

  • An individual presents as a whistleblower or citizen journalist, seeding a narrative on a purpose-built video channel;
  • The video is then covered by a seemingly unaffiliated global network of covertly managed websites;
  • Russian expats, officials, and fellow travellers then amplify this coverage.

Ultimately, it seems that American audiences then repeat and repost the disinformation, likely unaware of the original source.

China, Iran

Meanwhile China is using a multi-tiered approach in its election-focused activity, said Microsoft.

Chinese campaigns capitalise on existing socio-political divides, and aligns its attacks with partisan interests to encourage organic circulation, said Microsoft.

It also found that China is increasingly using AI in election-related influence campaigns, in contrast to the operations from Russia.

“While Russia’s use of AI continues to evolve in impact, People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-linked actors leverage generative AI technologies to effectively create and enhance images, memes, and videos,” said Microsoft.

It also warned that Iran’s past behaviour suggests it will likely launch acute cyber-enabled influence operations closer to US Election Day.

“Tehran’s election interference strategy adopts a distinct approach: combining cyber and influence operations for greater impact,” said Microsoft. “The ongoing conflict in the Middle East may mean Iran evolves its planned goals and efforts directed at the US.”

Russian response

Reuters noted that the Russian embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment, but the Kremlin said last month it would not meddle in the November US election.

It also dismissed US allegations that it orchestrated campaigns to sway the 2016 and 2020 US presidential elections.

Back in 2020 the US Government’s director of national intelligence John Ratcliffe had warned that Russia and Iran have obtained US voter registration information.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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