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Russia-backed hackers target German legislators: report

Farah Bahgat
March 26, 2021

A "Ghostwriter" cyberattack affected seven Bundestag members and 31 state parliamentarians, according to a Spiegel report. The hackers reportedly launch campaigns that "align" with Russian interests.

A picture of the Bundestag shot at night time.
A 2015 cyberattack on Germany's parliament strained relations with RussiaImage: Christoph Soeder/dpa/picture alliance

Alleged Russian hackers launched a cyberattack against dozens of German policymakers, Der Spiegel news magazine reported on Friday. 

The hackers are believed to belong to the campaign dubbed "Ghostwriter," which is allegedly linked to Russia's military intelligence service (GRU).

The attackers targeted at least seven members of Germany's federal parliament, the Bundestag, and another 31 state legislators, according to Der Spiegel

According to Der Spiegel, the targeted politicians belonged to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) 

and the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

The hackers reportedly used phishing emails, which are fake messages designed to appear legitimate. 

Der Spiegel reported that dozens of activists were also affected by the hack.

It is unclear whether any data has been leaked. 

What is Ghostwriter?

A US-based cyber intelligence firm, Mandiant, published a report last year detailing the Ghostwriter campaign, which they believe was ongoing since 2017. 

According to the report, the attacks mainly targeted audiences in Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland by spreading fabricated content that promoted an anti-NATO agenda. 

The firm believes the campaign messages were "aligned with Russian security interests." 

The campaign repeatedly used fake email accounts and websites to spread false information. The allegedly fabricated news articles and designed documents to appear as though public officials published them, the report said. 

Russian cyberespionage comes to Germany

CDU faces cyber treats 

In January, members of the CDU held an online meeting to elect new leadership. Hackers, operating primarily from abroad, carried a series of attacks to disrupt the summit. 

The party said the attackers overwhelmed the CDU's website server with internet traffic until it collapsed, cutting out the event livestream.

Last year, the European Union imposed sanctions on top Russian intelligence officials over a massive cyberattack that breached German parliament data and targeted Merkel in 2015.