German intelligence chief warns of political cyberattacks

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German intelligence chief warns of political cyberattacks

Angela Merkel said yesterday that cyberattacks originating in Russia were becoming part of everyday life, and her spy chief warned that Russian hackers could undermine the democratic process with a barrage of misinformation.

The US has alleged Russian Federation was responsible for cyberattacks on the Democratic Party during the presidential election, after WikiLeaks released more than 50,000 emails from the account of Hillary Clinton's campaign chief, John Podesta.

Speaking to daily newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Bruno Kahl said Europe, and Germany in particular, would be the focus of such attacks to cause political instability and exert pressure on "public discourse and democracy". "The perpetrators are interested in delegitimising the democratic process as such, no matter who that subsequently helps".

Germany's election is expected next September, and votes in the Netherlands and France are scheduled earlier in the year.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin, right, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attend a news conference at the Novo-Ogaryovo presidential residence outside Moscow, March 8, 2008.

His comments follow a large internet outage that affected nearly a million customers of German telecoms giant Deutsche Telekom starting Sunday. Chancellor Angela Merkel last week also warned that "social bots" - or programs that spread fake news and sway opinions on social media - may be deployed against her reelection campaign next year.

Merkel faces a growing challenge from the anti-immigrant AfD party, which has said the European Union should drop sanctions on Russian Federation and that Berlin should take a more balanced position towards Moscow.

Some critics say a proliferation of fake news helped sway the United States election in the favour of Republican Trump, who has pledged to improve relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Bruno Kahl, president of the German Federal Intelligence Agency (BND), gives a speech at the 60th anniversary of the founding of the BND in Berlin.

Germany's Federal Office for Information Security said the outage was part of a world-wide attack on internet routers that exploited unsecured maintenance ports.

Asked whether the attack may have originated in Russian Federation, as some experts have speculated, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière told DPA news service: "It is possible that the line between criminal activities from a particular country and state activities can not be clearly drawn".

Responding to the growing cyber threat, Germany approved an IT security law in 2015 that orders 2000 providers of critical infrastructure to implement minimum security standards and report serious breaches or face penalties.

He said Germany has and will likely continue to be a target.

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