Russian cyberspies likely behind DNC breach move on to German election

Fancy Bear has been allegedly targeting political parties in the country using spear-phishing attacks

A group of suspected Russian cyberspies blamed for interfering in the U.S. election is also attempting to influence the upcoming vote in Germany, according to the country's domestic intelligence agency.

The Russian hacking group known as Fancy Bear or APT 28 has been targeting political parties in the country, Germany's Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) intelligence agency said in a statement Thursday posted online by Politico.

The hacking activities have led to a surge in spear-phishing email attacks directed at German politicians, the agency said.  

Fancy Bear is one of the elite Russian hacking teams that allegedly hacked the Democratic National Committee and stole sensitive files that were later leaked online, according to U.S. security firms.

To steal passwords, Fancy Bear has been known to send fake emails, pretending to be from Google, that ask the recipients to type in their login information. Earlier this year, the hacking group directed this kind of attack against aides working for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, according to Dell SecureWorks.

Later, during the presidential race, leaked emails from Hillary Clinton aide John Podesta and former Secretary of State Colin Powell were published online through WikiLeaks and a hacktivist site called DCLeaks – potentially influencing voter opinions about the presidential candidates.

In Germany, Fancy Bear has been attempting to promote propaganda and disinformation under the guise of hacktivism, according to the country's BfV intelligence agency. The objective is to destabilize the government and help support extremist groups, it added.

"We are increasingly finding aggressive cyberspying," Hans-Georg Maassen, head of the BfV intelligence agency, said in a statement. He warned that the attacks will attempt to discredit German politicians by spreading the misinformation over social media.

In October, U.S. intelligence agencies also blamed Russia for sponsoring hacks meant to tamper with the U.S. election. However, the Russian government has denied any involvement.

Despite the denial, Russia will continue to sponsor these kinds of election-influencing hacks in Europe, said Dmitri Alperovitch, CTO at security firm Crowdstrike. The goal has been to prevent tighter integration among countries belonging to the European Union, he said.

"The blueprint Russia has been using for these hacks has been quite successful to further their objectives," he said.

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Michael Kan

IDG News Service
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