Germany investigates Russia for pre-election hack
BERLIN – The German Federal Prosecutor’s Office said on Friday it was investigating those responsible for a series of hacking attempts targeting lawmakers, as Russia grew concerned about disrupting the September 26 vote for a new government .
The prosecutor’s office’s decision comes after Germany’s Foreign Ministry said this week it had protested to Russia, complaining that several state lawmakers and members of the federal parliament had been the target of th – phishing emails and other attempts to obtain passwords and other personal information.
These accusations prompted the federal prosecutor to open a preliminary investigation against what has been called a “foreign power”. Prosecutors did not identify the country, but cited the Foreign Ministry’s statement, leaving little doubt that their efforts were focused on Russia.
In their statement, prosecutors said they opened an investigation “in connection with the so-called Ghostwriter campaign”, a reference to a hacking campaign which German intelligence claims can be attributed to the Russian state and in particular to the Russian Federation. Russian military intelligence service known as the GRU
It was discovered that Russia had hacked into the computer systems of the German Parliament in 2015 and three years later it had penetrated the main data network of the German government. Chancellor Angela Merkel protested the two attacks, but her government struggled to come up with an appropriate response, and the issue of Russian hacking is now particularly sensitive, coming weeks before the Germans go to the polls to choose a successor after his nearly 16 years in power. .
“The German government considers this unacceptable action as a threat to the security of the Federal Republic of Germany and to the democratic decision-making process, and as a heavy burden for bilateral relations,” said Andrea Sasse, spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Foreign Affairs. Wednesday. “The federal government strongly urges the Russian government to put an end to these illegal cyber activities with immediate effect. “
Ms Merkel is not running for re-election and will step down after a new government is formed, meaning the elections will be crucial in determining Germany’s future and shaping its relationship with Russia.
Of the three candidates most likely to replace Merkel, the Greens’ Annalena Baerbock, who has pledged to take the toughest stance against Moscow, has been the target of the most aggressive disinformation campaign.
The other two candidates – Armin Laschet of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and Olaf Scholz of the Social Democrats, currently Merkel’s vice-chancellor and finance minister – have served in three of Merkel’s four governments, and neither are expected switch. Berlin’s relations with Moscow.
Merkel enacted tough economic sanctions against Moscow after the invasion of Ukraine in 2014 despite some setbacks in other capitals and at home, but she also worked hard to keep lines of communication with Moscow open.
The two countries have important economic ties, especially in the energy market, where they recently cooperated in the construction of a direct gas pipeline, which the Russian energy company Gazprom announcement had been completed on Friday.
U.S. intelligence agencies believe that “Ghostwriter,” a Russian program that received its nickname from a cybersecurity company, was active in spreading false information about the coronavirus ahead of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, efforts that were seen as a refinement of what Russia tried to do in the 2016 campaign.
But attempts to interfere in previous German election campaigns have been limited, partly because of respect for Merkel, but also because the far-right and populist parties that have emerged in France and Italy have failed. managed to gain so much ground in Germany.
German intelligence officials nevertheless remain concerned that their country, Europe’s largest economy and a leader of the European Union, is not immune to outside forces seeking to disrupt its democratic standards.
Russian state-funded external broadcaster RT runs a German-only online service that for years has focused on dividing social issues, including public health precautions to stem the spread of the disease. coronavirus and migration.
During a visit to Moscow last month, Merkel denied accusations that her government pressured neighboring Luxembourg to block a license application from the station, which allowed it to broadcast its programs to German viewers by satellite.