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Microsoft Says it Has Found New Russian Hacking Targeting Republican Groups

The move by Microsoft is the latest effort by Silicon Valley to address Russian threats to the upcoming election more aggressively than the technology industry did in 2016

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New Microsoft update for Windows 10 coming in October. Pixabay
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A group affiliated with the Russian government created phony versions of six websites, including some related to the US Senate, with an aim to hack into the computers of people who were tricked into visiting, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft on Monday night said that it has discovered and disabled the fake sites, reports The Washington Post.

The effort by the notorious APT28 hacking group, which has been publicly linked to a Russian intelligence agency and actively interfered in the American 2016 presidential election, underscores the aggressive role Russian operatives are playing ahead of the midterm congressional elections in the US.

APT28 specialises in information warfare or hacking and disinformation operations. “APT” refers to “advanced persistent threat” in cybersecurity circles.

US officials have repeatedly warned that the November vote is a major focus for interference efforts.

Microsoft said the sites were created over the past several months but did not go into more specifics.

Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit, which is responsible for the company’s response to email phishing schemes, took the lead role in finding and disabling the sites, and the company is launching an effort to provide expanded cybersecurity protection for campaigns and election agencies that use Microsoft products.

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Microsoft on Monday night said that it has discovered and disabled the fake sites, reports The Washington Post. Pixabay

Among those targeted were the Hudson Institute, a conservative Washington think-tank active in investigations of corruption in Russia, and the International Republican Institute (IRI), a non-profit group that promotes democracy worldwide.

Three other fake sites were crafted to appear as though they were affiliated with the Senate, and one non-political site spoofed Microsoft’s own online products.

“This apparent spear-phishing attempt against the International Republican Institute and other organisations is consistent with the campaign of meddling that the Kremlin has waged against organizations that support democracy and human rights,” The Washington Post quoted Daniel Twining, IRI’s president, as saying who put blame on Russian President Vladi­mir Putin.

“It is clearly designed to sow confusion, conflict and fear among those who criticise Putin’s authoritarian regime.”

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The move by Microsoft is the latest effort by Silicon Valley to address Russian threats to the upcoming election more aggressively than the technology industry did in 2016.

Companies and US officials have vowed to work together more closely this year.

Facebook recently disclosed that the company had taken down 32 fake accounts and pages that were tied to the Internet Research Agency, a Russian disinformation operation active before and after the 2016 election. (IANS)

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Microsoft Releasing its Redesigned MS Outlook For Windows, Web users

More enhancements would keep coming over the next few months with updated features

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Redesigned MS Outlook reaching Windows, Web users. Pixabay

Microsoft is releasing the redesigned version of its personal information manager Outlook to Windows and Web users with improved search options, simplified ribbon (toolbars at the top of the window) and options to control and personalise inboxes.

The revamped version of “Outlook” comes with provisions of finding files quicker in the inbox, suggested replies, simplified event creation option and smart-room suggestion to help users find the best rooms for meetings based on time, availability and preferences, Gabriel Valdez from the tech and marketing team for Outlook, Microsoft wrote in a blog post on Tuesday.

Additionally, the “Outlook” redesign also incorporates simpler ways to the “add-in” experience that brings the user’s most used apps into the inbox for faster multitasking, including saving an email directly to notebook, translating emails on the fly or peer-to-peer paying.

“You can also install more add-ins from the Office Store-simply open an email, click the drop-down menu, and select Get Add-ins. Once installed, add-ins will show up in the drop-down menu. You can also choose to pin frequently used add-ins,” wrote Valdez.

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A sign for Microsoft is seen on a building in Cambridge. VOA

Microsoft has also added more ways to manage groups in refreshed “Outlook” version like faster and simpler group creation, richer group card, more efficient group email triage and group Files view that would focus on the latest file activity and group management.

More enhancements would keep coming over the next few months with updated features.

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“Based on your feedback, we’ll iterate, improve, refine, or discard them,” Valdez added.

The new Outlook is not yet available on Mac, but the redesign is available now for Windows users in the “Targeted programme” while “Targeted Release” users would get it in the next few weeks. (IANS)