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German intelligence chief warns of cyber attacks during Bundestag elections

German intelligence chief Thomas Haldenwang has warned that foreign intelligence agencies may seek to influence the course of Germany's "Bundestag" parliamentary elections, scheduled for next September, by launching cyber attacks against members of the German parliament and regional politicians.

Haldenfang said in comments reported by the British newspaper "Financial Times" today, Thursday, that the German domestic intelligence agency has recorded, since last February, intensive cyber attacks by the "Just Writer" group, which appears to be linked to a foreign intelligence service.

Haldenwang added that the group launched a wave of phishing attacks targeting the email addresses of German parliament members as well as a large number of local lawmakers. He suggested that such attacks could be preparations for subsequent "hacks and leaks" on social media, although very few have been successful so far.

Haldenfang stressed that personal information obtained in this way can be published in a selective and misleading manner, and can be falsified with manipulated information in order to discredit individuals or parties.

He also warned of the danger of "piracy and publishing" operations, in which cybercriminals spread misleading information on reputable news sites that they attacked and hacked. He refused to identify foreign countries that could be behind these attacks, although several German officials indirectly referred to Russia.

Commenting on this, the "Financial Times" said that concern is growing in Berlin that Russia will seek to interfere in the elections, which will see the departure of Angela Merkel after 16 years in her position as German chancellor. Haldenwang said, in this regard, that foreign agencies considered the upcoming German elections an "important goal", which made them explore ways to influence the outcome. He stressed that these efforts are still "at a low level."

Merkel said last year that there was "compelling evidence" that Russian forces were behind a massive hack of the German Bundestag elections in 2015 that targeted her emails. Some 16 gigabytes of data were also stolen in an electronic theft, including the emails of several members of Parliament.