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German intel urges counter cyberattacks

AAP logoAAP 10/01/2017

Germany should be able to counter hacking attempts with its own cyberattacks, the head of Germany's domestic intelligence service says.

"We consider it necessary that we not solely engage in defence," Hans-Georg Maassen told DPA. "We must also be in a position to attack so that the antagonist ceases further attacks."

The German domestic intelligence service, or Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), is responsible for defending Germany from espionage.

Maassen warned that this year's elections for Germany's lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, would most likely experience "external attempts to exercise influence."

Fears have grown about foreign interference in upcoming polls in Germany and elsewhere in Europe amid reports that the Russian government engaged in cyberactivities that influenced the outcome of the US presidential election in November.

US intelligence agencies released a report on Friday accusing Russian officials of hacking Democratic Party email servers and releasing the information to WikiLeaks during the US election campaign to favour Republican candidate and now president-elect Donald Trump.

Maassen's call for countermeasures in the event of cyberattacks echoes the comments of Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, whose recently proposed a stronger federal security structure.

"Once we have identified where a cyberattack has come from, we must also be able to actively fight against it," Maassen said.

Maassen called for new powers for the BfV, including permission to delete data from its server. The intelligence office is currently not able to get rid of data it has stored after hacking a perpetrator.

"There is the great danger that the damage could be multiplied if a third party gains access to the data," Maassen said.

Maassen also asked for "clear guidelines ... to shut down attack infrastructures from which profound dangers for cybersecurity originate."

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