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Berlin Protests To Moscow Over Preelection Cyberattacks

Germany says it has protested to Russia over attempts to steal data from politicians in what it suspects could be an attempt to spread “disinformation” ahead of German elections later this year.

"The federal government strongly urges the Russian government to stop these unacceptable cyberactivities with immediate effect," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Andrea Sasse said on September 6, adding that a ministry official had made the same demand to a representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry last week.

Sasse didn’t comment on the extent of the cyberattacks or possible damage, but said the German government "reserves the right to take further measures."

A group known as Ghostwriter, long suspected of ties to Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency, has been “combining conventional cyberattacks with disinformation and influence operations,” Sasse told reporters, adding that such activities targeting Germany have been observed “for some time,” she said.

Germans will elect a new parliament on September 26 that will determine Chancellor Angela Merkel’s successor, with polls showing the main parties fairly close together. Merkel is not seeking another term after nearly 16 years in charge.

Using methods such as phishing e-mails, Sasse said there had been attempts to get hold of personal log-in details of federal and state lawmakers, with the aim of identity theft.

Several lawmakers from the governing coalition parties, the center-right CDU/CSU and the center-left SPD, were said to have been recently affected.

German cybersecurity authorities have warned that foreign intelligence services could use the hacks to publish personal information about the victim or fabricated false news.

“These attacks could serve as preparations for influence operations such as disinformation campaigns connected with the parliamentary elections,” she said.

The government in Berlin “has reliable information on the basis of which Ghostwriter activities can be attributed to cyberactors of the Russian state and, specifically, Russia's GRU military intelligence service,” Sasse said.

It “views this unacceptable activity as a danger to the security of the Federal Republic of Germany and for the process of democratic decision-making, and as a severe strain on bilateral relations.”

With reporting by AP and dpa
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