According to German media reports, Berlin wants to create conditions to be able to hit back in the event of a cyberattack. The move comes as the country gears up for September’s general election amid fears of hacking.
In the event of a cyberattack, as well as being able to defend against incursions, Germany plans to have the ability to destroy hostile servers if necessary, German daily “Süddeutsche Zeitung” and broadcasters NDR and WDR reported.
Among experts, such measures are known as “computer network operations” or “hackback,” the reports said.
During an ongoing attack, police, military or intelligence service units would attempt to identify the assailant and block the attack or destroy the servers being used to stage the incursion.
A prerequisite for such action would be that a legal aid request is not possible and that the attack from abroad can not be stopped.
In government circles, for example, this would include an attack on an electricity grid or another hacking of the Bundestag – Germany’s lower house of parliament. In this case, it would also be possible to remove the servers on which stolen parliament data is located.
There is, however, no current legal basis for such projects. Germany’s military, the Bundeswehr, has just installed its own cyber-subcontracting force, but it is only responsible for warlike acts from abroad or if its own troops were attacked.
Fears of election interference
Berlin now plans to draw up the corresponding legal proposals to permit a response in the case of cyberattacks on civilian targets.
Germany’s Federal Security Council, chaired by Chancellor Angela Merkel, reportedly decided at the end of March to carry out an analysis of the required technical skills. The results will be presented this summer to the Federal Security Council, which meets behind closed doors.
Potential cyberattacks on Germany’s upcoming parliamentary elections in September have been a topic of discussion since autumn 2016, particularly in light of claims by US intelligence agencies that Russian attackers influenced November’s presidential election.
Volker Kauder, a leading member of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, told DW that “he is not scared.” He points out that Germany, unlike the United States, does not use electronic voting machines with an internet connection.
Hans-Georg Maassen, head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, reports, however, said evidence of an influence on parliament has grown since Germany took a hard line on sanctions in the Ukraine conflict.
Moscow is suspected of having attacked the Bundestag’s internal data network in the spring of 2015 and stolen information.