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Russia hacks emails of Germany’s ruling Socialist party



A Russian intelligence-backed hacker group known as Fancy Bear exposed email addresses and other personal data in a cyber attack on Olaf Scholz’s SPD party last summer.

Annalena Baerbock, the German foreign minister, disclosed the attack on the SPD’s personal data systems at a press conference while visiting Australia.

“Russian state hackers attacked Germany in cyberspace,” she said. “Today we can say unambiguously… we can attribute this cyber attack to a group called APT28, which is steered by the military intelligence service of Russia.

“In other words, it was a state-sponsored Russian cyber attack on Germany,” she added. “This is absolutely intolerable and unacceptable and will have consequences.”

The attacks also targeted companies in the logistics, defence, aerospace and IT sectors, the interior ministry said in a statement.

Nancy Faeser, the German interior minister, said: “These attacks are not just aimed at individual parties or specific politicians, but at shaking confidence in our democracy.”

A spokesman from Germany’s foreign ministry said Germany and its partners would not tolerate the attacks and “will use the entire spectrum of measures to prevent, deter and respond to Russia’s aggressive behaviour in cyberspace”.

Berlin has summoned a top envoy from the Russian embassy over the hack, which is feared to have exposed personal data of SPD party officials.

Linked to previous attacks

The Russian embassy in Germany said its envoy “categorically rejected the accusations that Russian state structures were involved in the given incident… as unsubstantiated and groundless”.

It was not immediately clear what form the consequences for Russia would take.

APT28 – also known as Fancy Bear – is a hacking organisation backed by the GRU, the Russian military intelligence organisation, which has been linked to previous cyber attacks on Nato, the US arms industry and Pussy Riot, the anti-Putin group.

Nato said the campaign had also targeted government bodies, “critical infrastructure operators” and other entities in Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Sweden.

A UK government spokesman said: “The United Kingdom stands with the European Union, Germany, Czechia and other allies in strongly condemning malicious cyber activity by Russian intelligence services.

“Recent activity by Russian GRU cyber group APT28, including the targeting of the German SPD executive, is the latest in a known pattern of behaviour by the Russian intelligence services to undermine democratic processes across the globe.”

In December 2023, the UK exposed a series of attempts by the Russian intelligence services to target high-profile UK individuals and entities through cyber operations.

Germany is already grappling with a string of espionage attacks involving Russia, such as the arrest in April of two German-Russian citizens suspected of planning a bomb attack on US military sites in Bavaria.

In a separate case, an intelligence officer for BND, the German foreign intelligence service, is currently on trial for allegedly passing state secrets to Russia. He has insisted he was actually working as a double agent.

The AfD, a far-Right party whose members have expressed sympathy for Russia, is also under increased scrutiny after an assistant to one of its MEPs was arrested on charges of spying for China.

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