Editorial | New targets of Russian meddling

Editorial | New targets of Russian meddling

It's difficult to believe there are people who doubt Russia's meddling in U.S. politics, including election campaigns, but there are. The evidence, meanwhile, continues to mount and show that it's still going on.

A July Ipsos poll found that a majority of Americans believed that Russia interfered in the 2016 election campaign, although there was a solid line of partisan demarcation. Eighty-five percent of Democrats and 53 percent of independents said they believed Russia meddled in the election, but only 46 percent of Republicans did so.

Maybe the latest news will concern the doubters.

Microsoft says that a group affiliated with the Russian government created phony versions of five websites, apparently intent on hacking into the computers of people who were tricked into visiting the sites. Among those targeted, Microsoft said, were the Hudson Institute, a conservative Washington think tank active in investigations of corruption in Russia, and the International Republican Institute, or IRI, a nonprofit group that promotes democracy. The latter has had Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio on its board. All have been vocal critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Further, three more bogus sites were designed to appear that they were affiliated with the U.S. Senate. Microsoft said its digital crimes unit took the lead role in uncovering and disabling the sites and added that it plans to provide expanded cybersecurity protection this year for campaigns and election agencies that use Microsoft products.

Accepting that Russians meddled in the 2016 election and that they continue to do so does not diminish the election of President Donald Trump, although he seems to believe so.

It would be helpful, though, if the president acknowledged the mounting piles of evidence and joined Republicans and Democrats in calling for the Russian government to halt its interference in American election campaigns.

Microsoft President Brad Smith said his company had tracked the Russian-government-backed group for two years but had decided to speak publicly about the company efforts out of a growing sense of urgency and a recent increase in Russian activity.

"You can't really bring people together in a democratic society unless we share information about what's going on," he told the Washington Post. "When there are facts that are clear as day, for those of us who operate inside companies, increasingly we feel it's an imperative for us to share this more broadly with the public."

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