It shouldn’t really come as a surprise, but the audacity remains breathtaking: In the past six months, foreign countries, in particular Russia, have tried hacking email accounts of Dutch government employees in at least 100 cases. That figure was recently revealed by Rob Bertholee, head of the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD). He said the hackers had attempted to gather sensitive information about government positions. One of their targets was the Ministry of General Affairs, where Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s office is also located. Back in December, Rutte had already said his government was aware of potential foreign interference in next Wednesday’s election. “It would be naïve to think it doesn’t happen here,” the Director Cyber Security at Northwave and former AIVD employee, Pim Takkenberg, told DW. “Russia has the right specialists, and it’s quite easy to do.”
As a precaution, after experts established that the election software security was outdated, the ballots will be counted by hand and the software will only be used as a calculation tool.
According to IT experts, Russian hacking groups APT28 and APT29, also known as Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear, are responsible for the attacks in the Netherlands. The same digital fingerprints have been found in attacks on the Democratic National Convention in the United States, and also in Germany, France and several other European countries.