Merkel Website Hit as Hackers Target German Government

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s website was crippled by an attack that hackers said was a protest against her support of Ukraine’s government.

The German parliament’s website was also blocked, marking a “serious attack” by “multiple external systems,” Steffen Seibert, Merkel’s chief spokesman, told reporters in Berlin today. He declined to comment on a claim by the pro-Russian CyberBerkut group that it jammed the websites in an attack that began at about 10 a.m. local time.

In a web posting possibly timed to coincide with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s visit to Germany today, CyberBerkut urged Merkel to cap aid and political support for the “criminal regime in Kiev.” The group said it was behind the attack on the portals without specifying how it had attacked the sites.

The attack flies in the face of pledges by Merkel’s government to step up funding and expertise for security on its internal and public sites after Edward Snowden’s leaks on snooping by U.S. and U.K. spy agencies.

Dusseldorf-based Babiel GmbH, which operates both websites, is still working to reactivate the chancellor’s web page after returning the parliamentary site to the Web, according to a company representative. The government’s own computer infrastructure wasn’t affected by the attack, said Stephan Kurzer, a spokesman for Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security, or BSI.

The attackers probably used a so-called distributed denial of service, or DDoS, in which a large number of computers are hijacked and used to overload target servers with requests, said Sean Sullivan, a security adviser at Helsinki-based F-Secure Oyj. That would be the same kind of attack used to bring down Sony Corp.’s PlayStation Network last month.

The government and the hosting company could prohibit the servers from accepting any traffic from outside Germany, he said. If the attack comes from within the country, it would be easy to take the infected computers down, he said.

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