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Scared the government’s out to get you? Nearly 1 in 5 state sponsored attacks target personal email

Nearly one in five state sponsored cyber attacks target people’s personal email accounts, according to fresh data from Microsoft.

Microsoft corporate vice president of customer security and trust, Tom Burt revealed the figure in a blog post on Wednesday, suggesting the number of state sponsored, advanced cyber attacks targeting businesses and people is on the rise.

“In the past year, Microsoft has notified nearly 10,000 customers they’ve been targeted or compromised by nation-state attacks. About 84% of these attacks targeted our enterprise customers, and about 16% targeted consumer personal email accounts,” he said.

Reaching for your tinfoil hat? Don’t, the good news is that unless you’re involved in some pretty high level government work, or high up at an NGO with political influence, you’re likely not being targeted.

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“While many of these attacks are unrelated to the democratic process, this data demonstrates the significant extent to which nation-states continue to rely on cyberattacks as a tool to gain intelligence, influence geopolitics or achieve other objectives,” explained Burt.

“The majority of nation-state activity in this period originated from actors in three countries – Iran, North Korea and Russia […] cyberattacks continue to be a significant tool and weapon wielded in cyberspace. In some instances, those attacks appear to be related to ongoing efforts to attack the democratic process.”

He added that Microsoft expects a fresh batch of attacks to appear in the run up to the 2020 US Presidential election.

Microsoft demoed a new ElectionGuard system it is developing to help protect elections from the attacks on Wednesday. The data is based off customer data collected by the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center.

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Burt said that, while he has faith in the ElectionGuard tech, more work will be needed to ward off future state sponsored attacks.

“Governments and civil society have important roles to play, but the tech industry also has a responsibility to help defend democracy,” he said.

The news follows widespread concerns about how social media has been used to spread fake news and disinformation during elections.

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