Moscow Aims To “Destabilize Germany,” as Berlin Sees Increase in Russian Propaganda and Cyber Spying

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Dec 8, 2016
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Russia is trying to destabilize German society with propaganda and disinformation campaigns ahead of the country’s general election, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency said Thursday.

The agency added it had seen a striking increase in Russian disinformation campaigns and targeted cyber attacks against political parties. “There is growing evidence of attempts to influence the federal election next year,” Hans-Georg Maassen, head of domestic intelligence agency BfV, said. “We see aggressive and increased cyber spying and cyber operations that could potentially endanger German government officials, members of parliament and employees of democratic parties,” Maassen added.

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Previously, the US government had accused Russia of Democratic National Committee hack and leaking emails ahead of the US presidential election. Moscow, however, strongly denied involvement in influencing the results of the election. Following this, the British intelligence agency also warned of an “increasingly aggressive” Russia in cyberspace. Last month, German Chancellor also talked about Russia trying to influence the results of the upcoming German election by disseminating fake news to polarize the region’s political environment.

Russia has hit back with allegations against the West, more recently claiming that it had foiled a plan against its banking systems launched by unnamed foreign spy agencies.

“We are worried that echo chambers are being created there,” Maassen said, adding that “automated opinion-forming” bots could be used to spread fake news on social media. “Propaganda and disinformation, cyber attacks, cyber espionage and cyber sabotage are part of the hybrid threat facing Western democracies.”

The agency also said it is seeing an increase in spear-phishing attacks from Russian hacking group APT 28, also known as Strontrium and Fancy Bear. The Russian government-backed hacking group was previously blamed for DNC hacks, and earlier for launching a cyberattack on the German parliament.

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Russia, however, keeps reiterating that it never tried to weaken the European Union or affect the US presidential election.

“Believe me, we’re expecting cyber attacks during election campaigns, every election campaign in Russia. These cyber attacks also happen,” Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin had said last month. “And believe me, there are also people behind those tens of thousands of cyber attacks who work from Germany just like other European countries.”

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