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Sun Sep 25 02:18:53 CAT 2016

German political parties hit by cyber attacks

AFP | 21 September, 2016 11:51
Citing unnamed security experts, German media said the attacks on August 15 and 24 appeared to have been carried out by state-backed Russian hackers. File photo
Image by: Thinkstock

German political parties have fallen victim to a new round of cyber attacks, documents showed Wednesday, after Berlin's domestic spy agency accused Russia of a series of operations aimed at spying and sabotage.

Politicians and employees of several parties received emails purporting to be sent from NATO headquarters, but which instead contained a link that installed spyware on the recipient's computer, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily and regional broadcasters NDR and WDR reported.

Citing unnamed security experts, German media said the attacks on August 15 and 24 appeared to have been carried out by state-backed Russian hackers.

A document circulated by Germany's Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), seen by AFP on Wednesday, warned lawmakers of the attacks.

"Given the background of the American situation, it is important to me to protect the parties from spying," Arne Schoenbohm, chief of Germany's Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), told the Sueddeutsche.

He was referring to a series of cyber attacks that had hit the US Democrats this year. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign has blamed Russia for the intrusion that resulted in an embarrassing leak of emails in July.

As in the US case, the BSI fears that the hackers could leak confidential party information in a bid to influence public opinion just before Germany holds general elections next year.

Germany's domestic secret service in May accused Russia of a series of international cyber attacks aimed at spying and sabotage, including a case which targeted the German lower house of parliament last year.

That rogue operation hitting the Bundestag involved an aggressive attack called Sofacy or APT 28 that had also struck NATO members and knocked French TV station TV5Monde off air.

Unlike last year's attack, this summer's affected not only specific parliamentary groups, but wider party operations such as the regional network of the Christian Democratic Union in the western state of Saarland, or the federal offices of the Left party.

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