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German Intelligence Agency Expects More Cyberattacks Before Election

Germany's domestic intelligence chief, Hans-Georg Maassen
Germany's domestic intelligence chief, Hans-Georg Maassen

Germany's domestic intelligence agency has said it expects more cyberattacks directed against German politicians and officials ahead of a general election in September.

"We expect further attacks, and we are keeping a very close watch on the threats," BfV agency chief Hans-Georg Maassen told a conference in Potsdam near Berlin on May 4.

Maassen said that the agency had detected and managed to thwart repeated e-mail phishing attacks directed at Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Maassen said German officials were on high alert for cyberattacks after reports by U.S. intelligence officials that sensitive materials had been taken from the U.S. Democratic National Committee to influence the U.S. election in 2016.

Maassen added that "large amounts of data" was seized during the May 2015 cyberattack on the Bundestag, or lower house of parliament, which has been blamed on a Russian hacking group known as APT28, Sofacy, or Fancy Bear.

There had been subsequent attacks directed at lawmakers, Merkel's CDU, and other party-affiliated institutions, but it was unclear if they had resulted in the loss of data, Maassen said.

He suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his allies could decide to use data gathered from such cyberattacks to try to influence the September 24 national election.

"Our counterpart is trying to generate information that can be used for disinformation or for influence operations," Maassen told the conference. "Whether they do it or not is a political decision ... that I assume will be made in the Kremlin."

Merkel, an influential supporter of the sanctions the European Union has imposed on Russia over its interference in Ukraine, is seeking to retain power in the elections.

The group known as Sofacy and by other names is believed to have been formed in 2004 and has been blamed for a wide range of attacks on both governments and financial institutions. Some experts believe the group has close links with Russia's government.

With reporting by Reuters, BBC, and
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