The head of Germany’s foreign intelligence service has warned that its election next year could be targeted by hackers.
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 US has alleged Russia 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.
While Mr Kahl, whose agency is best known by its German acronym BND, said Moscow could have been behind that attack, he admitted it was technically difficult to prove any particular state was to blame and disclosed no evidence to support Russia being responsible.
Claiming that technical traces left on the internet suggested those responsible wanted to demonstrate what they were capable of “and not just in the US elections”, Mr Kahl warned hackers could be plotting to subvert democracy.
“Some things speak for it being at least tolerated or wished for on the part of the state,” he said.
“The perpetrators have an interest in delegitimising the democratic process as such – whomever that later helps.
“I have the impression that the outcome of the American election isn’t causing mourning in Russia so far.”
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and the Kremlin have denied that the Russian government or any other “state parties” were the source of Mr Podesta’s hacked emails, and the US has yet to release an official evidence to support its claims.
It comes as Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel revealed she had no information as to the origin of a cyberattack on Deutsche Telekom (DT) at the weekend which caused 900,000 users to suffer internet outages.
“Such attacks are a part of everyday life and people have to get used to them,” she told reporters.
A DT executive has claimed the assault was an attempt to hijack consumer router devices for a wider internet hack.
Germany’s election is expected to be held in September while votes in the Netherlands and France will take place earlier in the year.
Calling for an era of transparency and openness over the hacking threat, Mr Kohl said: “It is right to address this kind of thing openly.
“A kind of pressure is being exerted on public discourse and democracy that is not acceptable.”