Latvia’s state security service the Constitution Protection Bureau (SAB) said October 8 that Russia has in the past launched several cyber-attacks against Latvia. In a rare statement posted to its website, SAB said that like the Netherlands – which recently went public with claims it had been subjected to cyber-attacks from the Russian Federation – Latvia too had been targeted several times, naming Russia’s GRU military intelligence service specifically as the perpetrator. “The cyber attacks in Latvia were carried out by the GRU for espionage purposes, and the most frequent attacks were directed against state institutions, including the foreign and defense sectors. Rarely, attacks were targeted at private companies, including the media. The essence of cyber-attacks carried out by GRU is to enter an information system, operate in it unnoticed, and obtain long-term data from the system – for example, regular access to e-mail correspondence and documents processed at the workstation,” SAB said.
Articles about voting issues in the Republic of Latvia.
Countering attempts by Russia and other actors to meddle in the democracies of other countries requires more than just stronger cyber defences and better election monitoring, Latvia’s deputy minister of defence said Thursday. It also demands stronger societies and better-informed citizens able to withstand an onslaught of disinformation, rumours and outright fabrications, said Janis Garisons in an interview Thursday with CBC News. Latvia, which has faced cyber attacks on its infrastructure and frequent disinformation campaigns for years, has learned a lot about how to protect itself, said Garisons. “Without general resilience in the long term, I think it will be very difficult to resist,” he said.
A nondescript office in Riga’s communist-era Institute of Mathematics and Computer Science may be Latvia’s last line of defense against threats to next month’s general election. There, the nation’s 29-strong CERT cyber-security group is bracing for its biggest test to date: repelling attempts by Russia to sway the voting process. Having studied meddling in the U.S. and fellow European Union members like Germany, the team is schooling state employees on suspicious emails and website links that could be phishing attempts, all the while receiving “threat feeds” from NATO and allied countries. Elsewhere, the government is working with Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. to stem the spread of fake news. Ballots at the Oct. 6 vote will be scanned electronically and can be counted by hand, should concerns arise at any precinct, adding an extra layer of security.
Latvia is investigating whether its banks acted as conduits for Russian funds used to interfere in elections and politics elsewhere, after it received a warning from the United States, officials have told Reuters. The allegations, which highlight the country’s role as a stepping stone for Russian money on its way to the west, come after Latvia’s third largest bank was shut in February after being accused by the United States of money laundering. Foreign affairs minister Edgars Rinkevics told Reuters that citizens from Russia and former Soviet states, including people subject to U.S. sanctions, had put money in Latvian banks and some of it may have been used for political manipulation.
The tiny country of Latvia can teach the United States a few things about how to counter Russian meddling in politics. One important lesson from Russian efforts to exacerbate ethnic conflict, spread disinformation and possibly compromise Latvian officials is that Russian methods keep changing, according to advice from Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs. “When it comes to the use of information as a weapon or propaganda, Russia does not have an approach that one size fits all,” Rinkēvičs told USA TODAY on Wednesday. “There are different ways of conducting political meddling and also during political elections.” Rinkēvičs was in Washington for meetings to prepare for an April 3 summit with President Trump and the presidents of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
Latvia: Constitution Protection Bureau: e-voting to create security risks in Latvia | The Baltic Course
Introducing an electronic voting system in Latvia would create security risks, Janis Maizitis, Chief of the Constitution Protection Bureau or the top national security agency in Latvia, said on the public Latvian Radio, cites LETA. He said he was not prone to phobias but, based on the information that he knew as the head of the national security agency, he believed that it would best if Latvia kept to the existing voting procedure, using paper ballots. “That way it would be safer, and we will avoid security risks,” Maizitis said.
Latvia: Estonian and Latvian non-citizen petition for voting rights sent to European Parliament | Baltic Times
Latvian leftist MEPs Andrejs Mamikins (Harmony) and Tatjana Zdanoka (Russian Union of Latvia) have submitted petitions in support of Latvian and Estonian non-citizens to the European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions. Mamikins told LETA that they had collected over 20,000 signatures under the petition, and there were residents of Belgium, the United Kingdom, Iceland, Italy, Lithuania, the United States, Canada, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh among the signatories of the petition. The petition seeks the rights for Estonia’s non-citizens to become members of political parties and to vote in the European Parliament election and, in the case of Latvia’s non-citizens, the right to vote in the European Parliament election.
Latvia’s parliament on Wednesday elected Defence Minister Raimonds Vejonis as the Baltic state’s new president, making him the 28-member European Union’s first Green Party head of state. His victory comes as the small NATO and eurozone member of two million people is grappling with security concerns amid heightened tensions with Russia, and Vejonis acknowledged the troubled ties with the former Soviet-era master in his first speech after being named to the post. “I would like to improve relations with Russia… but while Russian rockets and heavy weapons remain in Ukraine, that’s not really possible,” the 48-year-old Vejonis said after winning the secret ballot in which 55 out of 100 legislators backed him.
Latvia’s center-right coalition has formed a negotiation group to agree on the next government after securing a safe majority in parliament in last Saturday’s general election. The parliamentary election, however, was narrowly won by the opposition leftist pro-Russia Harmony party with 23.2 percent of the vote, but its chances of being taken into the new government appear to be slight, given that the three ruling parties have won 56 percent support between them. The Unity party emerged as the runner-up in the election, winning 21.6 percent of the vote, Greens and Farmers Union (ZZS) came third with 19.7 percent and the National Alliance took fourth place winning 16.5 percent of the vote.
Latvia’s hawkish center ruling coalition has won a clear majority in a general election, results showed on Sunday, after taking a hard line over the actions of Russia, its neighbor and former ruler, in Ukraine. Victory for the center in the Baltic state, which takes over the presidency of the EU at the start of next year, will bring a sigh of relief from many worried that the pro-Russian Concord party might gain power and give Russian President Vladimir Putin a friendly voice in the European Union. “The pro-European, relatively predictable, economically liberal course will continue,” Ivars Ijabs, associate professor of political science from University of Latvia, said.