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Microsoft says Russian cyber spying targets 42 Ukraine allies

This file photo from April 12, 2016, shows the Microsoft logo in Issy-les-Moulineaux, outside Paris, France. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)
This file photo from April 12, 2016, shows the Microsoft logo in Issy-les-Moulineaux, outside Paris, France. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

CLEVELAND (AP) — Coinciding with unrelenting cyberattacks against Ukraine, state-backed Russian hackers have engaged in “strategic espionage” against governments, think tanks, businesses and aid groups in 42 countries supporting Kyiv, Microsoft says in a new report.

“Since the start of the war, the Russian targeting (of Ukraine’s allies) has been successful 29 percent of the time,” Microsoft President Brad Smith writes, with data stolen in at least one-quarter of the successful network intrusions,

Nearly two-thirds of the cyberespionage targets involved NATO members. The United States was the prime target and Poland, the main conduit for military assistance flowing to Ukraine, was No. 2. In the past two months, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Turkey have seen stepped-up targeting,

A striking exception is Estonia, where Microsoft said it has detected no Russian cyber intrusions since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. The company credited Estonia’s adoption of cloud computing, where it’s easier to detect intruders. “Significant collective defensive weaknesses remain” among some other European governments, Microsoft says, without identifying them.

Half of the 128 organizations targeted are government agencies and 12% are nongovernmental agencies, typically think tanks or humanitarian groups, according to the 28-page report. Other targets include telecommunications, energy and defense companies.

Using artificial intelligence tools, Microsoft says, it estimates “Russian cyber influence operations successfully increased the spread of Russian propaganda after the war began by 216 percent in Ukraine and 82 percent in the United States.”

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