Brussels (dpa) – The EU accuses Russia of targeted cyber attacks shortly before the federal elections and wants to consider additional sanctions.
The malicious activities were directed against scores of MPs, government officials, politicians and representatives of the EU’s press and civil society, according to a statement released by the 27 member states on Friday. Attackers would gain access to computer systems and personal accounts and steal data. The aim of these activities is to undermine democratic institutions and processes.
Due to the “Ghostwriter” campaign, the federal government had already raised serious allegations against the Moscow government earlier this month. A spokeswoman for the Federal Foreign Office said at the time that the federal government had “reliable results on the basis of which ghostwriting activity can be attributed to Russian state cyber actors and in particular to the service. of Russian military intelligence GRU ”. A little later, the Attorney General opened an investigation into suspicion of being a secret service agent.
The federal government cited the sending of so-called phishing emails as a specific example of the activities. They were used to attempt to obtain personal registration data, in particular from members of the Bundestag and the Landtag, in order to be able to commit identity theft. “These attacks can serve as preparatory measures for operations of influence such as disinformation campaigns in connection with the federal elections”, then indicated the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Federal Government regards the procedure “as a danger for the security of the Federal Republic of Germany and for the democratic decision-making process”.
The Russian Foreign Ministry dismissed the allegations to the end. “Our partners in Germany have presented no evidence that the Russian Federation was involved in these attacks,” ministry spokeswoman Maria Sakharova said at the start of the investigation in Germany.
On Friday, however, the EU left no doubt that it considers Russia’s involvement to be proven. Russia is urged to adhere to the government’s standards of responsible behavior in cyberspace, the statement said. Current activities aim to undermine democratic values and principles, including through disinformation and manipulation of information. They are unacceptable.
EU diplomats also confirmed that the statement is specifically linked to cyber attacks in Germany ahead of the federal election. The name of the “Ghostwriter” campaign is also specifically mentioned in the text.
At the end of the declaration, Russia is also indirectly threatened with new sanctions. “The European Union will deal with the issue again at future meetings and consider further steps,” the text said. Due to the massive hacker attack on the German Bundestag in 2015, the EU last imposed new sanctions on Russia in October 2020.
Those affected were, among others, the Chief of the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, one of the suspected hackers and a military unit accused of cyber attacks.
The largest cyberattack to date against the Bundestag took place in April and May 2015. Computers in many parliamentary offices had been infected with spyware, including computers in the Bundestag office of Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU). Following the attack, Parliament’s computer system had to be overhauled. In addition, a significant amount of data was stolen.