Monday

16th Jul 2018

German spy chief warns Kremlin on election hack

  • Putin told a German reporter after meeting Merkel on Tuesday that "we never interfere in other countries' politics" (Photo: kremlin.ru)

A German spy chief has warned “the Kremlin” against taking the “political decision” to interfere in Germany’s election by using hacked information.

The warning came amid evidence that Russia’s GRU military intelligence service, which reports directly to Russian president Vladimir Putin, stole information from the German parliament in 2015.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

  • Massen (l), Muench (c), and Kahl (r) in Potsdam on Thursday (Photo: hpi.de)

It also tried to steal material from Germany’s main political parties, the CDU and the SPD, in the run-up to the German vote in September.

“We recognise this as a campaign being directed from Russia. Our counterpart is trying to generate information that can be used for disinformation or for influencing operations,” Hans-Georg Massen, the director of Germany’s domestic intelligence service, the BfV, said on Thursday (4 May).

“Whether they do it or not is a political decision ... that I assume will be made in the Kremlin.”

Speaking at a conference in Potsdam, Germany, organised by the Hasso Plattner Institute, an IT university, he said the 2015 hack had obtained “large amounts of data” on German MPs.

He said Russia’s “increasingly aggressive cyberspionage” operation also carried out “a number of further attacks … on parties, deputies' offices, political foundations.”

“We expect further attacks, and we are keeping a very close watch on the threats,” Massen said.

He added that German authorities knew which servers the GRU-linked hacker groups, such as APT10, APT28, and APT29, had used in 2015 and that they were looking into ways to strike back.

“It is necessary that we are in a position to be able to wipe out these servers if the providers and the owners of the servers are not ready to ensure that they are not used to carry out attacks”, he said.

The spy chief also accused Russia of an overt disinformation campaign that targeted German voters.

He cited Russian state media’s fraudulent reports, last year, that Arab migrants had raped a Russian girl in Germany, and the “clumsy fake news” that the father of the SPD party’s candidate, Martin Schulz, was a Nazi concentration camp guard.

He said Russia had sent emails to Lithuanian officials this year which falsely claimed that a German soldier in a Nato battalion there had raped a Lithuanian girl.

Wider threats

Bruno Kahl, the head of Germany’s foreign intelligence service, told the Potsdam event that “state resources were needed” for the kind of attacks that Germany had suffered.

He said China and Iran as well as Russia were behind a “strong increase” in recent “cyber-sabotage” operations worldwide.

Holger Muench, the head of Germany’s federal police, the BKA, noted that criminal groups were part of the problem.

He said Germany had 82,000 known cases of cybercrime last year which cost the country an estimated €22 billion.

"You can buy security gaps, purchase stolen data [online]. Botnets for larger cyberattacks can be rented there. Some of the offers are very cheap. The consequence is that many conventional criminal areas are moving into the net”, he said in Potsdam.

A botnet is malicious software that allows you to hijack another person’s computer to use in an attack.

Putin’s media and GRU service have also attacked the pro-EU candidate, Emmanuel Macron, in the French election ahead of the run-off on Sunday.

Pollsters expect Macron to drub the anti-EU and pro-Russia candidate, Marine Le Pen, by 20 or more points, despite Russia’s efforts.

The CDU and SPD in Germany have an even more commanding lead against pro-Russia parties, the AfD and Die Linke, which are polling at below 10 percent.

Russian trolling

The Kremlin has denied hacking, with Putin telling German chancellor Angela Merkel in Russia on Tuesday that “we never interfere in other countries’ politics”.

Vladimir Chizhov, Russia's envoy to the EU, also told press in Brussels on Wednesday that “Russia does not meddle in elections”.

He trolled “European media” by thanking them for being “prudent enough not to claim that last year’s [Brexit] referendum result in the UK was due to Russian hackers”.

The Russian embassy in London also trolled the EU on Thursday after the UK accused the European Commission of interfering in its upcoming election by talking tough on Brexit.

“Praise God it's not Russia this time”, the embassy said on Twitter.

Russia suspected of Macron hack

Likely Russian spies tried to steal email passwords from Macron's people the same way they hacked US elections, new study says.

Investigation

Sex and lies: Russia's EU news

France and Germany have been targeted for years with fake news and lies designed to incite sexual revulsion toward migrants and the politicians who gave them shelter.

Opinion

How the World Cup exposed Russian chauvinism

The suggestion that Russians themselves play a role in the condition of their state today is often dismissed as "xenophobic" or "Russophobic". But if not addressed, the evils of nationalism, chauvinism, and imperialism will continue even after Putin is gone.

Opinion

Will EU suspend trade deal with Cambodia?

The EU has been slow to react to the collapse of Cambodian democracy - but if it ever chooses to use it, Brussels has substantial influence and leverage over Cambodia.

News in Brief

  1. EU sees no China free-trade talks
  2. Italy accepts migrant boat after help promises
  3. EU opens case on Siemens' Alstom buyout
  4. Trump: May found my Brexit advice 'too brutal'
  5. Italy will reject EU-Canada trade deal, says deputy PM
  6. Commission: Juncker suffered from sciatica attack at Nato
  7. EU free wifi plan struck by IT error
  8. Europol launches 'World Cup game' to catch criminals

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Latest News

  1. EU is 'foe', as Trump seeks to make friends with Putin
  2. Let's not be 'naive' with Chinese partner, says senior MEP
  3. Trump, trade, and Brexit in EU headlines This WEEK
  4. EU and China edge closer in Trump's 'America First' world
  5. How the World Cup exposed Russian chauvinism
  6. Stage set for Trump-Putin finale
  7. Trump scuppers trade deal with UK under May's Brexit
  8. Trump wades into Brexit after Nato fiasco

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  2. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  5. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  7. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  8. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  10. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  12. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us