Tag Archives: Bundestag

German Parliament Defends Another Offensive | Instant News

Anti-Phishing, DMARC
Critical Infrastructure Security
Fraud & Cybercrime Management

Members of Parliament Targeted by Spear Phishing, German Media Reports

A spear phishing campaign hacked into the emails of several German politicians

Several members of the German parliament, The Bundestag, and political activists in the country were targeted by a spear-phishing campaign, German news magazine Glass reported Friday, citing unnamed German government officials. This is the second incident, after the 2015 hack of parliament.

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The campaign targets seven members of Germany’s federal parliament and 31 state lawmakers, most of whom are members of the German Christian Democratic Union, the Christian Social Union and the ruling Social Democratic Party, Der Spiegel reported.

The Der Spiegel report further noted that politicians received phishing messages in their official emails that appeared to come from “trustworthy” sources. He added that apart from politicians, the campaign also targeted political activists in Germany.

A report by another German publication, WDR, said the phishing email contained links to websites hosting malware, and added that the campaign broke into emails from multiple targets.

The WDR report does not identify the malware or threat groups associated with the campaign. However, citing an unidentified security expert, Spiegel reported that the attack was linked to a determined group called the Ghost Writers.

BSI, Germany’s federal cybersecurity authority, did not immediately respond to a request for comment seeking information on the perpetrator of the threat.

Previous Attacks

This second attack is similar to an earlier incident in which hackers successfully targeted members of the German parliament. In 2015, the Bundestag was infiltrated after hackers planted a Trojan to gain administrative-level access to the parliamentary network. The incident resulted in The Bundestag replacing 20,000 PCs, as well as a number of undisclosed servers to reduce the threat (see: German Parliament Fights Active Hack ).

In May 2020, German prosecutors revealed that suspected Russian hackers and suspected members of the Russian military’s Main Intelligence Directorate, also known as GRU, were behind the 2015 hack (see: SolarWinds Attack Describes the Evolution of Russian Cyber ​​Tactics ).

It is now believed that Russian hackers sent phishing emails to several German lawmakers with malicious links described as pointing to a United Nations website, according to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung news report. The report said the attackers further mimicked the UN by using the “@ un.org” domain to send emails, which included subject lines such as: “Ukraine’s conflict with Russia left the economy in ruins.”

When the target of a phishing campaign clicks on the link, it installs malware on their devices, allowing hackers to gain a foothold in the German parliament’s IT network, according to Sueddeutsche Zeitung. It is also reported that the attacker used the “Mimikatz” pentest tool, which the attacker also used to steal the password.

In October 2020, the European Union sanctioned two Russian citizens for their alleged role in the 2015 hack (see: EU Sanctions 2 Russia for Hacking German Parliament ).

Ghost Author Relationship

In its July 2020 report, security company FireEye said Ghostwriter is a threat group that focuses on influence campaigns in Lithuania, Latvia and Poland. The report does not link the group to Russia’s GRU, but notes that it is in line with Russia’s security interests.

The report notes that the group is primarily involved in a disinformation campaign and has been active since 2017, using messages criticizing the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s presence in Eastern Europe. According to FireEye, the group primarily uses compromised websites and fake emails to encourage content produced by fake personas posing as locals, journalists and analysts in those countries.

Other Incidents

Sophisticated threat actors have targeted parliaments of several other countries for espionage and other malicious activities.

In December 2020, Finnish police and parliamentary officials launched an investigation into a security incident in which attackers gained access to an internal IT network and appeared to have compromised the email accounts of lawmakers (see: Finnish Official Investigates Member of Parliament Email Hacking )

Previously, Norwegian officials announced that they believed a Russian-linked hacking group known as APT28, or Fancy Bear, was responsible for a campaign discovered in August in which the email accounts of several elected officials and government employees were compromised (see: Norway Says Parliament Link APT28 Hacking With Russia ).

In 2019, hackers broke into the Australian Parliament network, although investigators found no evidence that the attackers stole any data (see: Hack Attack Breaches Australian Parliament Network).


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Russian-backed hackers targeting German legislators: report | News | DW | Instant News

Guess Russian hackers launch cyber attacks against dozens of German policymakers, Glass news magazine reporting on Friday.

The hackers are believed to be part of the campaign dubbed “Ghost Writers”, who are allegedly linked to him Russia’s military intelligence service (GRU).

The attackers targeted at least seven members of Germany’s federal parliament, the Bundestag and 31 other state legislators, according to Glass.

Based on Glass, the politicians who are the targets Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU)

and the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

Hackers are reportedly using phishing emails, which are fake messages designed to appear legitimate.

Glass reports that dozens of activists were also affected by the hack.

It is unclear whether any data has been leaked.

What is Ghostwriter?

A US-based cyber intelligence firm, Mandiant, published a report last year detailing the Ghostwriter campaign, which they believe has been ongoing since 2017.

According to the report, the attacks primarily targeted audiences in Lithuania, Latvia and Poland spreading fake content which promotes an anti-NATO agenda.

The company believes the campaign message is “aligned with Russia’s security interests.”

The campaign repeatedly uses fake email accounts and websites to spread false information. The allegedly fake news articles and documents designed to appear as if public officials published them, the report said.

CDU faces a treat in cyberspace

In January, CDU members held an online meeting to elect a new leadership. Hackers, operating mainly from abroad, carried out a series of attacks to disrupt the summit.

The party said the attackers flooded CDU’s website servers with internet traffic until it collapsed, stopping the live broadcast of the event.

Last year, the European Union imposed sanctions on top Russian intelligence officials a massive cyber attack that violated German parliamentary data and targeted Merkel in 2015.


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Fighting corruption: Germany gets the ‘lobby register’ | Germany | News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | Instant News

At the heart of every democracy is its parliament. It is a place where bills are negotiated and passed into law, and elected representatives exchange views and debate. Yet it is also where interest group representatives from business and society promote their affairs – in other words, where lobby happening.

Lobbying is part of every democratic process. The political field requires the expertise of economic associations, professional unions, non-governmental organizations and religious groups for the legislative process.

This shouldn’t be an opaque backroom activity, the parties in the German governing coalition have decided. After a long dispute, conservatives Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its sister party in Bavaria, Christian Social Union (CSU), and center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) has agreed to form a transparency register, also known as the lobby registry.

Will Germany’s transparency register highlight the lobbyist’s influence on lawmaking?

What is the lobby registry?

The lobby registry is a publicly accessible database that professional representatives of interest groups must register before they contact political actors. Such registries already exist in various countries.

Germany’s upcoming lobby register, which will be housed within the Bundestag, will ask lobbyists to enter their name and provide details about their employer or commissioning agency. Lobbyists can also provide information on the number of people involved and expenses. Incorrect entries or failure to register at all will be punished with a fine.

The proposed preliminary draft registration requires only information from the lobbyist who will be interacting with the Bundestag members. However, the current version agreed upon by the coalition parties calls for lobbying taking place in government ministries to also be registered.

Government members like Olaf Scholz, the current finance minister and vice chancellor and the SPD candidate for chancellor in upcoming national elections, have said that they are satisfied with the deal.

Criticism of the lobby registry

Political scholars and scientists were not very fond of the planned record keeping plans. “Overall, the agreement does not meet the demands of civil society and organizations, and when compared internationally to other lobbying regulations it lies in the middle,” Maximilian Schiffers, a political scientist from the University of Duisberg-Essen, told DW.

This is primarily because, although registration will clarify who is in and out of the Bundestag and the ministry, it will not provide information on business areas.

“It doesn’t even solve the problems that a good lobby registrar can solve. We’ll know who the lobbyists are, but we won’t know what they actually did and who they talked to,” said Roman Ebener, of the nonpartisan internet platform. MP watch (Parliamentarian Watch), which advocates for greater political transparency in Germany.

A further problem is that lobbyists should only mention their political contacts if it involves someone at a sub-departmental leadership level or higher. “A lobbyist does not have to register if they are only meeting with an advisor or administrator, although this person may be influential as they are dealing with the topic. This means that hidden influence is still possible,” Ebener told DW.

Lobbying for transparency in other countries?

There are many countries that have much stricter transparency rules for lobbyists than Germany. Canada and the United States are among the strictest. In these countries, lobbyists are required to register as such. There are also independent watchdogs and harsh penalties for wrongdoing.

The Lobby Disclosure Act in the United States provides for prison terms of up to five years and fines of up to $ 200,000 (€ 168,000). By comparison, Germany now estimates a maximum fine of € 50,000.

German and European Union flags fly outside the Bundestag

Critics of the proposed registration say Germany could use EU registration as a model

The European Union has also set high standards when it comes to transparency. EU commissioners must publish their lobbying meetings online. The same applies to EU parliamentarians in key positions, for example, committee chairs and rapporteurs.

In addition, meetings are also listed in accordance with the relevant law. “You can easily go to the website, search for the ‘Green Deal,” for example, and then you’ll find all the organizations lobbying for the Green Deal, including all their positions and meetings, “explains Schiffers.

“Germany could just use countries like the US or EU transparency lists as orientation,” Ebener said.

What is happening right now?

Given the weaknesses in the list of German lobbies, organizations such as Abgeordnetenwatch and Lobbycontrol were asked to make adjustments, such as requiring lobbyists to publish all their political contacts.

The organizations are also demanding a so-called legislative trail, which makes it possible to trace which interest group played a role in shaping a section of concrete legislation. This will let citizens see how laws are made and which interests are taken into account.

Such a legislative footprint is yet to exist anywhere in its pure form, in part because it is difficult to judge which influence ends where in a law.

Since 2018, the German government has been required to make so-called legislative processes transparent. This means that it is possible to view the draft law on the ministry’s website, including the position of each lobbying organization.

This is not far from the notion of a legislative trail. However, each statute is published individually on the website of the respective ministry; there are a total of 15 federal ministries. There is no combined overview to provide transparency – transparency that many think is necessary to ensure lobbying serves democracy and stays within the bounds of the law.

This article has been translated from German.

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Germany: Third conservative lawmaker quits as pressure grows over lobbying scandal News | DW | Instant News

Just days before two state elections, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc was further hurt on Thursday by the third exit of a lawmaker.

Mark Hauptmann, a member of parliament from the Christian Democrats (CDU) from the state of Thuringia, resigned his seat in the Bundestag on Thursday amid pressure over allegations of lobbying.

His resignation followed departures – to a different degree – by other CDU politician Nikolas Löbel, and Georg Nüsslein from the Bavarian Merkel-affiliated Christian Social Union (CSU) party, over the alleged pandemic of the face mask business which sparked criticism last weekend.

What did Hauptmann say?

Hauptmann’s departure followed a news magazine report Spiegel above the tourism advertisement of Azerbaijan, Taiwan, and Vietnam that aired on “Südthüringer Kurier”, a local newspaper near the CDU that he published. He was accused of accepting money from foreign institutions.

Captain informed World his newspaper “strongly denies the suspicions” and “misrepresentation” raised in the report.

“However, this advertisement never influenced my political decisions – I attach great importance to that,” Captain informed World.

“I never received money, and never had anything to influence my political actions,” said Hauptmann, adding that he had left the Bundestag to “protect my family.”

“The hostility towards myself has become too great,” he exclaimed.

Study assignment in Japan, USA

On its site, Hauptmann cites his studies on political science and intercultural communication at the University of Jena Thuringia followed by CDU-related salary university assignments in Osaka, Japan, and at Yale in the United States.

He has worked for the European Parliament, the Konrad Adenauer CDU foundation in Beijing, at the Ministry of Transport of Thuringia, and chaired the CDU-CSU group of junior MPs in the Bundestag.

During the “frequent” trips of the parliamentary delegation abroad, Hauptmann said, he had made “many interesting contacts” which greatly benefited Thuringia’s middle industry, also featured in his paper.

Deadline awaiting a decision

Three exits this week by Merkel’s affiliates precede a Friday evening deadline set by the parliamentary CDU-CSU bloc which its 245 Bundestag members say is not benefiting from trade-related pandemic.

While Hauptmann is not believed to have been involved in the mask scandal, pressure has been mounting on Merkel’s conservatives over their lobbying relationship.

Ralf Stegner, deputy chairman of the Social Democrats (SPD), who is currently a partner in Merkel’s coalition cabinet, on Thursday renewed calls for a clear code of conduct, saying Germany should ban paid lobbying at the level of state federal and regional assemblies.

The political damage is ‘immense’

In a DW interview on Tuesday, CSU Bundestag member Michael Frieser said he did not expect further cases outside of Nüsslein and Löbel’s.

“I don’t see the damage in Germany, but the political damage is enormous,” Frieser said, adding that the Bundestag needed to improve its rules on disclosure.

Transparency International Berlin spokesman Wolfgang Jäckle said Germany had “an urgent need” to fix the situation, based on disclosure criteria, to rebuild public trust.

ipj / rs (dpa, AFP)


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Germany’s right-wing AfD MP visits Moscow | News | DW | Instant News

Senior Russian lawmakers and members of the AfD party called for “normalizing” Russian-German relations after a meeting in Moscow on Tuesday, according to the Russian parliament’s webpage.

The visit of AfD regional leader Alice Weidel and two other members of the AfD federal parliament came despite a major dispute between Berlin and Moscow. for the imprisonment of opposition politician Alexei Navalny in Russia and remaining EU-Russia tensions in Ukraine.

Weidel, whose anti-immigrant AfD arm is contesting next Sunday’s regional elections in the German state of Baden-Württemberg, said his party hopes to help “deepen and improve” German-Russian relations.

The AfD’s goal is “to finally end the economic sanctions” imposed on Russia, said Weidel, who heads the AfD parliamentary group in the Bundestag.

Weidel has led the AfD parliamentary group since 2017

Russian Parliament published photos of Weidel with Leonid Slutsky , Chairman of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs.

He is also seen visiting President Vladimir Putin’s envoy for cultural cooperation abroad, Michail Schvydkoy, who was Russia’s culture minister for several years until 2004.

‘We need more pragmatism’

“Parliamentarians from Russia and Germany confirmed their common position on the main issues of the international agenda and expressed their interest in normalizing relations between countries,” the Duma said on its website.

The Russian parliament also quoted the AfD as criticizing “the use of double standards in bilateral dialogue”.

“We need more pragmatism in relations and less ideological flickering,” Weidel said in quotes run by Germany’s DPA news agency.

AfD's Meuthen and Weidel talk during a party summit in 2019

Both are based in Baden-Württemberg but are rivals, joint speakers with AfD federal Jörg Meuthen and Alice Weidel.

Weidel is expected to stay in Russia until Friday along with two other AfD federal lawmakers, Robby Schlund and Petr Byston, who are the leading AfD representatives on Germany’s Bundestag foreign affairs committee.

The three are also scheduled to hold talks with Russia’s central bank, foreign ministry and visit the Gamaleya research institute where the Russian Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine was developed.

Last December, AfD federal deputy leader Tino Chrupalla visited Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov while also criticizing EU sanctions against Russia.

The AfD has been hit by a power struggle

Weidel’s regional AfD branch in the state of Baden-Württemberg hopes to attract new voters ahead of Sunday’s regional elections. The populist party took the third poll with 12% support, down from 15% in 2016. The German Greens currently lead the race with 32%, ahead of CDU Angela Merkel who has 25%, according to polling agency Insa.

Weidel’s AfD branch has also experienced internal divisions in recent years, with German public broadcaster ARD reporting on it “power struggles and resistance” within the party.

Also the vote on Sunday will be the German state of the Rhine Palatinate. Double voting on Sunday and regional elections in the state of Saxony-Anhalt in June were precursors to Germany’s federal Bundestag elections in late September.

ipj / dj (dpa, AFP)


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