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‘Absolutely intolerable’: Germany blames Russia for cyberattack, says it will face consequences

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Relations between Russia and Germany were already tense, with Germany providing military support to Ukraine in its ongoing war with Russia.
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Germany’s top diplomat on Friday said Russia will face consequences after accusing its military intelligence service of masterminding an “absolutely intolerable” cyberattack, as NATO and European Union member countries said they will not let Russia’s “malicious” behavior in cyberspace go unanswered.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Russian state hackers were behind a cyberattack last year that targeted the Social Democrats, the leading party in the governing coalition. The German Interior Ministry added that German companies, including in the defense and aerospace sectors, as well as targets related to Russia’s war in Ukraine were a focus of the attacks.

“Russian state hackers attacked Germany in cyberspace,” Baerbock said at a news conference in the Australian city of Adelaide. “We can attribute this attack to the group called APT28, which is steered by the military intelligence service of Russia.”

“This is absolutely intolerable and unacceptable and will have consequences,” she said.

The Council of the EU and the Czech Foreign Ministry said that Czechia’s institutions have also been a target of a cyber campaign by the same group.

The ministry said APT28, which is associated with the Russian military intelligence service GRU, exploited a previously unknown vulnerability in Microsoft Outlook from 2023.

Ties between Russia and Germany were already tense, with Germany providing military support to Ukraine in its ongoing war with Russia.

“Cyberattacks targeting political entities, state institutions and critical infrastructure are not only a threat to national security, but also disrupt the democratic processes on which our free society is based,” the ministry said. No details about the targets of these attacks were given.

In a statement by the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, the bloc’s nations said they “strongly condemn the malicious cyber campaign conducted by the Russia-controlled Advanced Persistent Threat Actor 28 (APT28) against Germany and Czechia.”

The EU noted that it had previously imposed sanctions on individuals and entities responsible for APT28 attacks targeting the German parliament in 2015. It said it will not tolerate the continuation of such attacks, particularly with EU elections upcoming in June.

NATO said that APT28 targeted “other national governmental entities, critical infrastructure operators and other entities across the Alliance,” including in Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Sweden.

“We are determined to employ the necessary capabilities in order to deter, defend against and counter the full spectrum of cyberthreats to support each other, including by considering coordinated responses,” said the North Atlantic Council, the principal political decision-making body within NATO.

Baerbock is visiting Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, with the trip focusing on security policy as China pushes for influence in the Pacific region.

“The defense cooperation between Germany and Australia is close and we would like to deepen it further and together expand it, because we are in a situation where we face similar threats,” said Baerbock, who is the first German foreign minister to visit Australia in 13 years.

Discussions between Baerbock and Australia counterpart Penny Wong centered on the conflict in Gaza. “I think we all understand that the only path out of this cycle of violence that we see in the Middle East at such great cost is one that ultimately ensures a two-state solution,” Wong said.

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