Cyber-attacks can bring Germany to its knees: Spy chief

Domestic intelligence chief Maassen says foreign spy agencies, terrorists targeting Western countries in cyberspace

Cyber-attacks can bring Germany to its knees: Spy chief

World Bulletin / News Desk

 Growing digitalisation is making Western countries deeply vulnerable to cyber-attacks from spy agencies and propaganda of terrorist groups, Germany’s domestic intelligence chief said Wednesday. 

Speaking at the European Police Congress in Berlin, Dr. Hans-Georg Maassen warned that cyberspace did not only offer new chances for industrialized countries, but also involved major risks for national security. 

"Even a few but very good trained cyber warriors can be enough to bring an industrialized country to its knees," he said, expressing grave concern over increased reliance on digital technologies in Western countries. 

Maassen said foreign spy agencies had stepped up in recent years their activities in cyberspace to carry out espionage, disinformation and influence operations, benefiting from vulnerabilities of digital infrastructures. 

"In the last two decades, vulnerabilities in cyberspace were largely exploited by criminal hackers or criminal organizations. Today it is mainly exploited by foreign intelligence organizations," he said, stressing that cyber-attacks had proved very efficient and cost-effective, compared with traditional methods employed by spy agencies. 

Maassen said their investigation into several recent cyber-attacks targeting Germany, including a hack on the parliament’s servers, pointed out the possible involvement of Russia, but they were not able find any hard evidence. 

"In case of doubt, we can never identify a smoking gun, which could help us determine who was behind the cyberattack. There is always the possibility that the hackers might have used a backdoor, and the state concerned can tell us that in fact it was not involved, and it was a false flag operation of another state," he said. 

EU’s largest economy adopted a new cyber security strategy late last year amid a growing number of cyber-attacks, which targeted not only politicians and ministries, but also high-tech companies. German officials view Russia and China as the two main actors behind cyber-attacks targeting the country. 

ISIL active in cyberspace  

 

German domestic spy chief also voiced concern over the growing influence of terrorist groups like ISIL in cyberspace, which he said were effectively using social networks and instant messaging apps to recruit new people from Europe and exert influence over them. 

"In a number of recent cases we have witnessed that radicalization begins in social networks, and continues in Whatsapp groups. We are witnessing that a parallel world has emerged in the cyber world," he said. 

Maassen warned that ISIL and religious extremists continued their activities with sophisticated use of digital space and posed a serious threat to security.

He said currently 1,600 extremists in Germany were viewed as extremely dangerous and under the radar of domestic intelligence. 

Last year, Germany witnessed five major terror attacks, which were carried out by radicalized young people with suspected links to ISIL. 

In the bloodiest attack on Dec. 19 in Berlin, 12 people were killed and dozens were injured, after a truck ploughed into crowds in a Christmas market. 

Germany has the second-largest Muslim population in Western Europe, and a large majority of its four million Muslims are well-integrated.  

The domestic intelligence agency particularly views Salafists -- who adhere to an ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam -- as a "dangerous" group, and argues that it is the source of radicalization among many young Muslims. 

According to the spy agency, about 9,200 Salafists are active in the country.  German security organizations estimate about 870 Germans, mostly young immigrants from Salafist groups, have traveled to Syria and joined ISIL since the beginning of the civil war in early 2011.

Last Mod: 22 Şubat 2017, 20:56
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