According to German government officials, a group of hackers called Ghostwriter, with links to the Russian military intelligence service is trying to destabilize the country’s pre-election landscape through cyberattacks and disinformation, and influence operations.
Germany protested to Russia over attempts to steal data from federal and state officials. According to the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there is a suspicion that disinformation is being prepared ahead of the German elections.
According to Andrea Sasse, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a group of hackers called Ghostwriter has been “combining conventional cyberattacks with disinformation and influence operations,” and that activities directed against Germany have been observed, “for some time now.”
German parliamentary elections are scheduled for September 26 and attempts have been made to obtain data and access credentials from federal and state officials. The aim would be to steal the identity of those responsible using techniques such as phishing email scams.
“These attacks can serve as a preparation for influence operations, such as disinformation campaigns related to the parliamentary elections,” says Andrea Sasse.
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicates that “the German government has reliable information, on the basis of which the Ghostwriter’s activities can be attributed to hackers of the Russian state and specifically to the GRU, the Russian military intelligence service”.
The activity is considered “unacceptable” and as “a danger to the security of the Federal Republic of Germany, to the democratic decision-making process, and as a serious strain on bilateral relations.”
Germany has already called on the Russian government to put an immediate end to the activity, addressing the demand directly to Russian officials during a meeting of a German-Russian working group on security policy, where Miguel Berger, German deputy minister of affairs Foreigners raised the issue with the Russian Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs.
In mid-July, the director of the German intelligence agency announced that, since February, the entity has been concentrating its activity on attempts to steal data in the private email accounts of federal and state legislators and their staff. Although he noted that few of these attempts were successful, where they were, they apparently did little harm.
Germany’s concerns about Russian interference also extended to the activities of state broadcaster RT, whose German-language online service has over the years emphasized fractious issues such as migration and restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Chancellor Angela Merkel recently denied, during a visit to Moscow, that her government had exerted political pressure to block the station’s request for a regular broadcast license, which was refused in August by authorities in neighboring Luxembourg. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused Germany of trying to suppress the channel, saying it “says what the German media dare not say.”