Russian hackers 'threaten Germany 2017 election', MPs warn

image copyrightAP
image captionRussian hacking group Fancy Bears has been linked to high-profile cyberattacks

German politicians have warned that hackers and others acting for the Russian state could undermine Germany's general elections next year.

The German election is at risk from "outside manipulation", said Wolfgang Bosbach, a senior MP in Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative CDU party.

The warnings came amid a US furore over Russian hackers accused over leaks of sensitive US Democratic Party files.

Russia was blamed for a cyberattack on the German parliament last year.

An unnamed German security official said it was "highly likely" that secret files published by Wikileaks two weeks ago originated from that cyberattack.

The files - dating from early 2014 to January 2015 - came from the parliamentary lower house (Bundestag) committee investigating US National Security Agency (NSA) spying on German politicians.

The massive scale of the NSA's global surveillance was first revealed by former NSA employee Edward Snowden, who fled to Russia.

Russian officials deny the alleged interference in the US presidential election and dismiss Western warnings about disinformation spreading from the Kremlin.

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image captionIn July 2014 US whistleblowers testified at a Bundestag inquiry into NSA spying

Mr Bosbach, quoted by the German daily Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger, said "there is a general danger - for the Bundestag 2017 election too - of influence-peddling via targeted infiltration from outside, with the goal of manipulating facts or opinions". He was commenting on the US row about alleged Russian manipulation of the US presidential election in favour of Donald Trump.

The foreign affairs spokesman of the Social Democrats (SPD), Rolf Muetzenich, echoed that warning, saying "unfortunately we cannot exclude such activities in Germany, either".

"In the election campaign we'll also have to confront distortions and fake stories."

Stephan Mayer, home affairs spokesman of the conservative CSU - allied to the Christian Democrats (CDU) - said "there is a big danger that hacker attacks on parties and factions, and disinformation campaigns will increase.

"We must grapple with this urgently and arm ourselves with appropriate laws."

image captionGerman parliament: Nationalists are challenging the centrist parties' political dominance

Last week the head of Germany's BfV domestic intelligence agency, Hans-Georg Maassen, said: "We detect increasingly aggressive cyber-espionage.

"The indications of attempts to influence the German parliamentary elections next year are intensifying."

The BfV said the hacker group known as "Fancy Bear" or APT28 was especially active - and it is believed to be controlled by the Russian state.

A diplomatic row erupted between Germany and Russia in January over the claim that a 13-year-old girl from a Russian-immigrant family had been abducted and gang-raped in Berlin.

The Russian TV report about "Lisa F" was discredited and German politicians accused Moscow of inflaming far-right conspiracy theories in Germany.

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