Germany protested to Russia about attempts to steal data from legislators in what it suspected may have been preparation for spreading disinformation before the forthcoming German election, Berlin’s Foreign Ministry stated Monday.
Andrea Sasse, spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry, stated that Ghostwriter was a hacker group that “combines conventional cyberattacks and disinformation and influence operations” and that Germany-related activities have been monitored “for some time.”
She stated that attempts were made to obtain login details for federal and state legislators in order to commit identity theft, including via phishing emails.
She told reporters in Berlin that these attacks could be used to prepare for influence operations, such as disinformation campaigns related to the parliamentary elections.
Sasse stated that the German government had reliable information that Ghostwriter activities could be attributed to cyber-actors from Russia and, more specifically, Russia’s GRU military intelligence services. It considers the unacceptable activity a threat to the security of Germany’s Federal Republic and to democratic decision-making and a serious strain on bilateral relations.
She stated that Germany has called on Russia to stop such activities immediately and made this demand directly to Russian officials. This was most recently at a meeting of a German-Russian security policy working group. Miguel Berger, the German deputy foreign minister, raised the matter with the Russian deputy foreign minister.
Sasse didn’t make any comment about the damage or the extent of cyberattacks, but said that they were “completely unacceptable” and that the German government would take further steps.
The head of Germany’s domestic Intelligence Agency stated in mid-July that his agency had witnessed activity since February involving phishing attempts against the private email accounts federal and state legislators and their staff. He said that only a small number of these attempts were successful and that little damage was done in the cases when they did succeed.
Germany will elect a new parliament in the September 26 election to replace Angela Merkel as Chancellor. After nearly 16 years of being in charge, she is not running for another term. It is still unclear what the outcome will be, as polls show that most people are fairly evenly split between the main parties.