EU ‘denounces’ Russian malicious cyber activity aimed at member states

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A top European Union (EU) official on Friday called out Russia for its involvement in recent hacking efforts directed towards the governments of multiple member states, describing these efforts as “unacceptable.”

“Some EU Member States have observed malicious cyber activities, collectively designated as Ghostwriter, and associated these with the Russian state,” Josep Borrell, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said in a statement Friday. “Such activities are unacceptable as they seek to threaten our integrity and security, democratic values and principles and the core functioning of our democracies.”

Borrell noted that the attackers had targeted “numerous members of Parliaments, government officials, politicians, and members of the press and civil society in the EU” through gaining access to networks to steal data.

“These activities are contrary to the norms of responsible State behaviour in cyberspace as endorsed by all UN Member States, and attempt to undermine our democratic institutions and processes, including by enabling disinformation and information manipulation,” Borrell said. 

Borrell noted that the EU would discuss the issue further, and was considering “taking further steps” to respond to the attacks. 

“The European Union and its Member States strongly denounce these malicious cyber activities, which all involved must put to an end immediately,” he added. “We urge the Russian Federation to adhere to the norms of responsible state behaviour in cyberspace.”

Borrell’s comments came two weeks after The New York Times reported that the German federal prosecutor’s office was opening an investigation into a recent spate of Russia-linked phishing emails aimed at German lawmakers ahead of the country’s election this month. 

According to The Associated Press, the German foreign ministry formally protested about the hacking efforts to Russia earlier this month, and specifically accused Ghostwriter of using cyberattacks and disinformation to target Germany ahead of the election. 

Russia has long been viewed as one of the most prolific nations involved in hacking operations aimed at other countries, particularly around elections.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia was behind hacking and disinformation efforts aimed at the 2016 U.S. presidential election, with hackers targeting election systems in all 50 states prior to Election Day. Russia was also accused of involvement in leaking thousands of emails from the campaign of now French President Emmanuel Macron in 2017 ahead of the presidential election. 

The Biden administration formally sanctioned Russia in April for the SolarWinds hack, which allowed Russian hackers to compromise nine U.S. federal agencies and 100 private sector groups for much of last year. Ransomware attacks on key U.S. companies have also been tied to Russian-based hackers this year, such as those on Colonial Pipeline and JBS USA. 

Tensions over cybersecurity issues were a key topic of discussion between President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Geneva earlier this year, with Biden giving Putin a list of critical infrastructure groups off-limits to attack. 

Tags Biden Cyberattack Emmanuel Macron EU Joe Biden Josep Borrell Russia Vladimir Putin

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