China-backed hacking groups may use AI to impact elections in US, India, warns Microsoft | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker

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2024 is an election year. India is gearing up for the Lok Sabha polls starting later this month. The US presidential elections will be held in November this year and South Korea will also go to polls. With so many countries going to polls, there’s an opportunity for threat actors to interfere in the process. Microsoft has issued a warning and said that China may look to impact elections. “With major elections taking place around the world this year, particularly in India, South Korea and the United States, we assess that China will, at a minimum, create and amplify AI-generated content to benefit its interests,” said Clint Watts, general manager, Microsoft Threat Assessment Centre.

According to Watts, deceptive social media accounts by Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-affiliated actors have started to pose contentious questions on controversial US domestic issues to better understand the key issues that divide US voters. “This could be to gather intelligence and precision on key voting demographics ahead of the US presidential election,” said Watts.

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The biggest threat, as per Microsoft, comes from a group known as Storm-1376, also known as Spamouflage and Dragonbridge. Last year, Storm-1376 posted videos in Mandarin and English alleging that the United States and India were responsible for unrest in Myanmar. According to Microsoft, Storm-1376 has made use of such AI-generated news anchors since at least February 2023. However, the volume of its content featuring these anchors has increased in recent months.

Storm-1376, as per Microsoft, is an influential player whose operations span over 175 websites and 58 languages. The group has continued to frequently mount reactive messaging campaigns around high-profile geopolitical events.

“Despite the chances of such content in affecting election results remaining low, China’s increasing experimentation in augmenting memes, videos, and audio will likely continue – and may prove more effective down the line,” says Watts.

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