Microsoft said Tuesday it has uncovered new Russian hacking attempts targeting U.S. political groups ahead of the midterm elections.
The company said that a hacking group tied to the Russian government created fake internet domains that appeared to spoof two American conservative organizations: the Hudson Institute and the International Republican Institute. Three other fake domains were designed to look as if they belonged to the U.S. Senate, according to the Associated Press.
Microsoft didn't offer any further description of the fake sites.
Microsoft calls the hacking group Strontium; others call it Fancy Bear or APT28.
The revelation came just weeks after a similar Microsoft discovery led Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat who is running for re-election, to reveal that Russian hackers tried unsuccessfully to infiltrate her Senate computer network.
"We have no doubt in our minds who is responsible," Brad Smith, Microsoft's president and chief legal officer, said.
Smith said there is no sign the hackers were successful in persuading anyone to click on the fake websites, which could have exposed a target victim to computer infiltration, hidden surveillance and data theft. Both conservative think tanks said they have tried to be vigilant about "spear-phishing" email attacks because their global pro-democracy work has frequently drawn the ire of authoritarian governments.
"We're glad that our work is attracting the attention of bad actors," said Hudson Institute spokesman David Tell. "It means we're having an effect, presumably."
The International Republican Institute is led by a board that includes six Republican senators, and one prominent Russia critic and Senate hopeful, Mitt Romney, who is running for a Utah seat this fall.