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Microsoft Seizes Iranian Websites Used for Cyberattacks

Microsoft has seized 99 websites used by Iranian hackers to launch cyberattacks after a US judge sided with the company in court. Microsoft says it’s been tracking the group, referred to as Phosphorus by the company, and APT35 or Charming Kitten by others, since 2013. The company says the group has tried to steal sensitive information from the personal accounts of activists, journalists, political dissidents and others in the Middle East. Unsealed documents from the lawsuit revealed on Wednesday that the hackers’ software “effectively morphs the trusted, Microsoft-trademarked Windows system into a tool of deception and theft.” In January the European Union’s digital security agency said that Iran was likely to expand its cyber espionage activities given its worsening ties with Western powers. The statement followed a November report published by Reuters indicating that Iranian hackers had been behind several recent cyberattacks and online disinformation campaigns as the Islamic Republic aimed to strengthen its regional influence. Despite identifying the hackers as Iranian, Microsoft did not specify whether the group had ties with the Iranian government.