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Germany blames Russia for Defence Ministry cyber attack

The German government has pointed the finger of blame at Russia for launching a cyber attack on its foreign ministry, which was uncovered in December.

Speaking to state broadcaster ZDF on Sunday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the nation assumes that Russia was behind a recent cyber attack on his governmental department.

In an interview with the broadcaster, he talked about a number of recent crises causes by Russia, including a gas attack in the UK, the country’s continued support for the Assad regime in Syria, and its attempts to undermine Western elections.

“We had an attack on the Foreign Ministry where we have to assume that it stemmed from Russia,” he told ZDF, as reported by Reuters.

“We can’t just wish all that away. And I think it’s not only reasonable, but necessary to point out that we do not view those as constructive contributions.”

In February, it was claimed that the Russian Fancy Bear cyber crime group, also known as APT28, Pawn Storm, Sofacy Group, Sednit and Strontium, hacked into the infrastructure of the German Foreign and Defense Ministries.

The German chancellery and Federal Court of Auditors were also caught up in the attack.

Although the hackers did steal some data, German officials claimed that it was an “isolated” incident and was soon “brought under control”.

The hack happened in December, but it is likely that the hackers had access to government computer networks for at least a year – somewhat undermining claims that the hack was limited in extent.

German investigators did not give an exact explanation as to how the hack happened, or the methods used.

Johannes Dimroth, a German government spokesperson, confirmed that the hackers infiltrated “government information technology and networks”.

He explained: “The incident is being treated as a high priority and with substantial resources.”

Following the attack, the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) and the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) joined forces on an investigation.

The German parliament’s digital committee was also reconvened to talk about the incident.

“The successful cyberattack makes clear that the government’s data network is not sufficiently protected. In light of the sensitivity of such information, this is an unacceptable condition,” said a spokesperson for the committee, Manuel Hoeferlin.

It’s not the first time that Russia has been accused of attempting to hack German state institutions. In May 2016, Russia was accused of targeting Germany’s parliament

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