A hacking group that is thought to be linked to Russian military intelligence targeted the European offices of two American think tanks, Microsoft revealed late Tuesday.
Fancy Bear, the same hacking group that is believed to be behind some of the 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Committee, targeted The Aspen Institute and The German Marshall Fund of the United States, Microsoft said. The German Council on Foreign Relations was also targeted.
The attacks on the three high-profile think tanks took place between September and December 2018, according to Microsoft. The company didn't say whether the attackers were successful but said that it quickly notified the organizations that they were being targeted and helped them secure their systems.
Andrew Kolb, a spokesperson for The German Marshall Fund — which receives funding from the United States, Germany and other governments — told CNN Business that it didn't appear that its systems had been compromised as a result of the hacking attempt.
The fund's president, Karen Donfried, suggested in a statement that the organization may have been targeted because its work has included supporting efforts to combat alleged attempts by Russia and other nations to "undermine democracy and democratic institutions."
Every major think tank in the United States has been hit with cyber attacks over the past few years, and many major think tanks outside of the US have also been targets.
In December, it was reported that the Lowy Institute in Australia was targeted by Chinese hackers.
And currently, the UK's Institute for Statecraft has a message on its homepage saying that "all content has been temporarily removed from this site, pending an investigation into the theft of data from the Institute for Statecraft and its programme, the Integrity Initiative."
The think tank added that initial findings indicate that the theft was part of "a campaign to undermine the work of the Integrity Initiative in researching, publicising and countering the threat to European democracies from disinformation and other forms of hybrid warfare."