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Germany warns Russia over cyberattacks

October 5, 2018

Germany has joined British and Dutch authorities in accusing Russia of instigating massive international cyberattacks. Berlin said such attacks could endanger public security and democracy.

Picture showing Russian flag on computer keyboard with figures displayed on the monitor
Image: picture-alliance/imageBROKER/M. Weber

The German government on Friday called on Russia to desist from carrying out cyberattacks in other countries, adding its voice to those of Britain and the Netherlands.

"We sharply condemn such attacks on international organizations and institutions of our allies and call on Russia to meet its responsibility and cease such actions," government Spokesman Steffen Seibert said in Berlin.

He said that Germany, like Britain, believed that the Russian military intelligence agency GRU was, "with almost absolute certainty," behind the APT28 cyberespionage campaign, which attacked a number of targets worldwide, including the German Bundestag and government data network. 

If such attacks were successful, Seibert said, they could directly threaten public security and "in principle also our democracy," making it imperative that Germany ensured it was ready and able to take action in the digital sphere.

He emphasized the importance of working together with other states to defend against such attacks.

Read more: Cybersecurity: Why it's 'hard to protect yourself' online

Growing evidence

On Thursday, the Netherlands and Britain went public with accusations that Russia was trying to damage Western democracies through cyberattacks. Among other things, Dutch authorities said they had prevented an attack by Russian hackers on The Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in April.

Niederlande PK zu Russische Cyber-Spione des Landes verwiesen
The Netherlands expelled four Russians it accused of trying to hack into the OPCW networkImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/Dutch Defense Ministry

The OPCW, the UN's chemical weapon's watchdog, has been involved in investigations into the attempted killing of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal using the nerve agent Novichok and into alleged chemical attacks in Douma, Syria, by the Russia-backed Syrian regime.

Germany's accusations come as evidence mounts of a worldwide cyber campaign targeting Western institutions launched by Russia. The US Justice Department announced after Thursday's revelations that it had charged seven Russian military intelligence offices with hacking organizations including anti-doping agencies.

Russia has been revealed to have long run a state-sponsored athlete doping program, leading to several of its sportspeople being banned from participating in international events.

Moscow has denounced the allegations as products of "fantasy."

tj/ng (dpa, Reuters)

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