German officials said on Wednesday (September 21) that hackers infiltrated the computer systems of several political parties which have raised fears of foreign interference ahead of country’s general elections scheduled next year.
Politicians and employees of several parties reportedly received emails purporting to be sent from North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) headquarters but they contained a link which installed spyware on the recipient’s computer. The email had foreign links had the evidence showed that a Russian hacker group, APT28 carried out the attack.
Investigators have tied APT28 to cyber attacks last year on a French-language TV broadcaster and the German lower house of parliament, which forced the legislature to shut down its computer system for several days.
The incident comes after Berlin’s domestic spy agency accused Russia of a series of operations aimed at spying and sabotage. German media also accused state-backed Russian hackers of August 15 and 24 attacks.
A document circulated by Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), seen by AFP on Wednesday had warned lawmakers of the attacks as they had seen previous instances of cyber attacks which hit US Democrats this year. Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign has also blamed Russia for the intrusion that resulted in an embarrassing leak of emails in July.
A spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Berlin rejected the German officials’ accusations, describing them as lacking evidence.
BSI has growing fears that the hackers could leak confidential party information in a bid to influence public opinion.
Unlike last year, this attack has targeted wider party operations such as the regional network of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s the Christian Democratic Union or the federal offices of the Left party and several dozen members of the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag.
The German government’s information security specialists have urged political parties to increase their cyber defenses.