German Federal Agency's Cyberattack Leads EU to Warn Russia About Election Interference

After a cyberattack on a German federal agency, the European Union issued a warning to Russia to not interfere in elections, just as Germans were preparing for the weekend's parliamentary vote, the Associated Press reported.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell released the statement Friday, warning Russia against allowing hackers to attack databases or spread disinformation in some of the 27 member countries.

"Some EU member states have observed malicious cyber activities, collectively designated as Ghostwriter, and associated these with the Russian state," Borrell said in the statement.

"Such activities are unacceptable as they seek to threaten our integrity and security, democratic values and principles and the core functioning of our democracies," Borrell said. "The European Union will revert to this issue in upcoming meetings and consider taking further steps."

Germany's government also reported that the group Ghostwriter recently had been targeting federal and state workers with cyberattacks.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Germany election
The European Union warned Russia against interfering in elections after a German federal agency was hit by a cyberattack ahead of the parliamentary elections. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Borrell said the attacks have targeted several members of parliament, government officials, politicians, media workers and civil society. He did not name the countries concerned.

He said the EU and its member countries "strongly denounce these malicious cyber activities, which all involved must put to an end immediately. We urge the Russian Federation to adhere to the norms of responsible state behavior in cyberspace."

German security officials said Friday that there had been a cyberattack on the Federal Statistical Office, which also oversees Sunday's election.

Marek Wede, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said the attack appeared to have affected a development server used for the national census, rather than election infrastructure.

"As far as we can tell at the moment, the internal election server wasn't affected by this attack and as such there is no threat to the conduct of the federal election," he said.

Earlier this month, Germany protested to Russia over attempts to steal data from lawmakers in what it suspected may have been preparation to spread disinformation before the vote.

The Foreign Ministry in Berlin said that Ghostwriter had been "combining conventional cyberattacks with disinformation and influence operations," and that activities targeting Germany have been observed "for some time."

They include the use of phishing emails, among other things, to get hold of the personal login details of federal and state lawmakers, with the aim of identity theft.

In July, the head of Germany's domestic intelligence said the agency had seen an uptick in phishing attempts on the private email accounts of federal and state lawmakers and their staff since February. But he said that few attempts were successful, and it appeared little damage had been caused.