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Microsoft Says Hackers Already Targeting Midterm Candidates, As Three Top FBI Cybersecurity Officials Are Leaving

[MICHAEL B. THOMAS/AFP/Getty Images]

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Eric Lieberman Deputy Editor

Hackers are already trying to intervene in the 2018 midterm elections, a Microsoft executive said Thursday, while three high-ranking cybersecurity officials at the FBI are reportedly stepping down.

“Earlier this year, we did discover that a fake Microsoft domain had been established as the landing page for phishing attacks and we saw metadata that suggested those phishing attacks were being directed at three candidates who were all standing for election in the midterm elections,” Tom Burt, Microsoft’s vice president for customer security, said during a panel at the Aspen Security Forum.

Phishing, or more aptly spear phishing, is when cybercriminals try to bait users, like through email, to disclose personal information by impersonating an official, authorized page. John Podesta, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, for example, fell for the trick after he was sent a page that looked similar to an authentic Gmail notice requesting him to input his credentials.

Burt did not disclose the identities of the three specific candidates who he says were targeted. But he added that they are working with the U.S. government in a collective effort to try to stop the attacks.

Such activity comes as concerns of cybersecurity — in both the public and private sector — seems to have reached its peak; and as three cybersecurity experts at the country’s top law enforcement agency are retiring, according to The Wall Street Journal.

David Resch, the executive assistant director of the criminal, cyber, response and services branch, is supposed to leave shortly.

He oversees Scott Smith, assistant FBI director and head of the cyber division, who is departing soon. Smith’s deputy, Howard Marshall, recently left.

“As I retire after 28 years of government service to transition into the private sector, I have full confidence that under Director Wray’s steadfast leadership, the Bureau will remain the FBI the American people have depended on for 110 years,” Resch said in a statement, according to TheWSJ. (RELATED: Hackers May Bring Back The Paper Ballot)

Even more at the FBI who work to protect virtual systems are expected to exit the agency sometime soon as well, reports TheWSJ.

President Donald Trump’s administration officially eliminated its top cybersecurity post in May at the behest of then-newly appointed national security adviser John Bolton. (RELATED: Trump Signs Executive Order In Attempt To Strengthen IT Infrastructure)

The move is reportedly part of a larger maneuver to “streamline authority” for the leadership of the national security council teams. But many viewed the executive dismissal as yet another loss in such expertise, at a time when the country seems to need it most.

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