Merkel Government on Guard Against Political Cyberattack Threat

  • Germany takes risk of meddling ‘very seriously,’ Seibert says
  • U.S. response to alleged Russian hacking ‘understandable’

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is taking the threat of cyberattacks aimed at influencing German politics seriously and will also push back against so-called fake news, her spokesman said.

“We know that one must reckon with the possibility of intervention in public opinion and also in the politics of another country,” Steffen Seibert told reporters when asked to comment on U.S. findings that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a hacking and disinformation campaign to influence the U.S. election. Merkel is seeking a fourth term as chancellor in this year’s German election, which will probably be held in September.

German security authorities have observed the attack campaigns described as APT 28 and APT 29 by U.S. authorities and it’s “understandable” that the U.S. government has taken measures in response, Seibert said in Berlin on Monday.

Seibert’s comments reflect concern that Russia may seek to influence Germany’s election. The Kremlin on Monday ruled out any participation of Russian officials or agencies in hacking attacks on U.S. political institutions, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying the allegations resemble “a full-scale witch hunt.”

“We take the threat of cyberattacks very seriously, irrespective of their origin,” Seibert said, without mentioning Russia.

“Our possibilities include, firstly, to look very closely, to observe what’s out there in terms of reports, of fake news -- I’d rather say: In terms of lies,” he said. “And secondly to make clear and transparent what the policy of the federal government is and what the facts are.”

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