Lisa was a Russian-born teenager living in Berlin who last January said she had been abducted and raped by three men she alleged were immigrants, noting they were “southerners” who spoke poor German. As the story spread on social media, Russian media outlets pounced on it, widely reporting the 13-year-old girl had been held as “a sex slave”. Before the police could complete their investigation, Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, accused the German authorities of “sweeping problems under the rug”. Berlin responded by warning Moscow not to exploit the case “for political propaganda”. A few days later, prosecutors concluded the girl had not been abducted or raped, but had gone to a friend’s home to hide from her parents after getting into trouble at school. Despite the prosecutors’ findings, Russian media issued dire warnings about sex crimes committed by immigrants, prompting an outcry in Germany’s ethnic Russian community. Protests were staged across the country, including a demonstration by 700 people outside Angela Merkel’s chancellery.
Articles about voting issues in the Federal Republic of Germany.
Sigmar Gabriel, the German social democrat leader, has turned down the chance to run against Angela Merkel in this year’s parliamentary election, in a shock decision that throws his party into confusion and adds to the uncertainty overshadowing European politics Mr Gabriel, who is also Ms Merkel’s deputy chancellor, is standing aside in favour of former European Parliament chief Martin Schulz, who will also take Mr Gabriel’s post as SPD chairman. Mr Gabriel revealed his surprise decision on Wednesday in an exclusive interview with the weekly magazine Stern, which was widely followed by German media and confirmed to the Financial Times by two senior SPD representatives.
With eight months until Germans go to the polls, it seems not only politicians will be vying for voters’ attention. The country’s intelligence agencies believe foreign actors – namely Russia – may use similar tactics to those allegedly deployed during the US presidential election to divide public opinion and boost the fortunes of non-mainstream parties. In a report late last year, the Atlantic Council think-tank warned that Moscow viewed what it said were “the West’s best virtues – pluralism and openness – as vulnerabilities to be exploited.” It detailed a Kremlin “toolkit of influence,” which sought to undermine healthy democracies in Europe and elsewhere, by using information warfare to undermine the public’s trust in the political system. DW spoke to Dr. Stefan Meister, a Russian foreign policy analyst at the German Council on Foreign Relations, and learned of six main tactics that the Kremlin appears to have already put in place.
“You can crack everything,” says Sandro Gaycken, a security consultant for government institutions and businesses. “Above all, the hardware and software used by German parties is not as well-protected as the high-security CIA computers.” As the director of the Digital Society Institute (DSI) at the European School of Management and Technology (ESMT), he is considered to be one of the leading specialists for IT high security in Germany. He says that even the federal government is not in good enough shape to withstand cyberattacks. “It is quite easy and little effort is needed. A system of 1,000 bots (automatic robots) that can flood a social network system like Twitter would not even cost me 30 euros,” explains Linus Neumann from the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) in Berlin. Since the 1980s, the organization has been dealing with the weaknesses of computer systems.
Five days after Donald Trump became the next president of the United States, the south Munich chapter of Germany’s far-right party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), held its first meeting since the U.S. election. In a traditional Bavarian tavern on a quiet residential street, 50-some party members and supporters drank beer and celebrated the victory that they felt was, in many ways, their own. The theme of the meeting was supposed to be the local elections in May, when the AfD is expected to pick up seats in several of Germany’s state parliaments. (The party currently holds seats in 10 of Germany’s 16 state parliaments, up from five one year ago.) But instead of local elections, talk that night centered almost exclusively on Donald Trump. Dirk Driesang, a member of AfD’s federal board, stood to address the packed restaurant, where party placards reading “AfD Loves Deutschland” adorned every table. He began with Trump’s roots in Germany. The president-elect’s grandfather Friedrich was born and raised in Kallstadt, a village in the southwest. Friedrich eventually was deported, Driesang smiled as he told the crowd, for evading his mandatory military service. But that was fine because his grandson had gone on to do in the U.S. what the AfD hopes to do in Germany. “America First is coming to Deutschland,” boomed Driesang, his adaptation of Trump’s campaign slogan giving way to resounding applause.
Long before the CIA and FBI came to the public conclusion last week that the Kremlin had interfered in the U.S. presidential election with the aim of helping Donald Trump, a senior German intelligence official told colleagues that Russia was interfering in German politics. The federal security agency had observed “active measures” from Russia to influence public opinion, Thomas Haldenwang, the deputy president of the domestic security agency BfV, warned senior German security officials at a conference in Berlin in June. The aim, Haldenwang said, was “to influence public perception and opinion in our country, to the detriment of the German government.” With elections due for next year, government officials now fear that Russian President Vladimir Putin has trained his sights on Chancellor Angela Merkel, one of the most visible critics of Russia’s involvement in Syria and Ukraine, as the next target for a Kremlin misinformation campaign. During a press conference earlier this month, Merkel, who will run for office again next year, said that cyberattacks and a misinformation campaign during the election were “possible.” Konstantin von Notz, the Green party’s spokesperson on internet policy in the German parliament, was blunter. “There’s a real danger that the bitter experience of the U.S. election could be repeated here,” he said.
In the murky world of intelligence, it isn’t that often that anyone has crystal clear, absolutely certain, 100 percent guaranteed advance knowledge of a forthcoming operation. But in Europe right now, there is one prediction that everyone is happy to make: In 2017, the Russian government will mount an open campaign to sway the German elections. We know that the Russians can do it. The CIA has confirmed that Russian cyberhackers procured material from the Hillary Clinton campaign that appeared, via WikiLeaks, at key moments in the election. Hacked emails became part of a successful trolling campaign to discredit Clinton (and continue to inspire hysteria in the form of Pizzagate, the bizarre conspiracy theory that just won’t die); during the campaign, Trump frequently repeated lines lifted directly from Russian propaganda, including threats that Obama “founded ISIS” and Clinton would “cause World War III.” Similar campaigns involving hacks, violent rallies and dark conspiracy theories have worked in other countries, including Georgia, Poland and Ukraine. Risky on the face of it, the U.S. operation did no harm to Russia’s interests. On the contrary, the pro-Russian candidate won; business looks set to continue as usual.
After hackers infiltrated the German Parliament’s computer network in May 2015, it took nearly a year before the country’s intelligence agency concluded that the attack was most likely the work of their Russian counterparts. Last week, when 900,000 Germans lost access to internet and telephone services, it took a matter of hours before politicians began pointing fingers at Moscow. Berlin is now concerned that Germany will become the next focus of Moscow’s campaign to destabilize Western democracies as national elections approach next year. Those fears intensified after the Obama administration accused the Russian government of attacking Democratic Party emails during the American presidential campaign.
German intelligence says Russia is trying to destabilize German society with an intensifying campaign of propaganda, disinformation, and cyberattacks ahead of federal elections next year. “We see aggressive and increased cyberspying and cyberoperations that could potentially endanger German government officials, members of parliament, and employees of democratic parties,” Hans-Georg Maassen, head of the domestic BfV intelligence agency, said in a December 8 statement. The warning came two months after U.S. intelligence publicly accused Russia of directing cyberattacks against American political figures and organizations in order to interfere with the U.S. electoral process ahead of the November 8 presidential election.
A group of state-sponsored Russian hackers could disrupt the Germany´s 2017 elections, as it was stated by the head of the country’s Federal Intelligence Service and president of the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Bruno Kahl. Apparently, the hackers could sabotage the political event and undermine the democratic process by several methods that include the spreading of misinformation, hacking government emails and execute cyber strikes to elicit political uncertainty. According to the International Business Times, the spy boss claimed that the Russian hackers are interested in discredit the democratic process as much as they can, no matter of who benefits the most. The reason why he ensured that the cyberattacks could come is because he already witnessed a targeted email spoofing campaigns that were developed by foreign hackers , who he admitted having received information that pointed out that they could possibly come from Russia, which wouldn’t be a surprise considering that that kind of criminal actions are tolerated or desired by the Kremlin.