Report: Russian DNC hackers are now targeting Germany's Merkel




A Kremlin-affiliated hacker group has been targeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel's party, for more than a year, anew report says — and it's still ongoing.

The report, conducted by cybersecurity firm Trend Micro, has found that Russian intelligence-affiliated hackers broadly known as APT28 have gone after institutions connected to Merkel at least three times in just over a year. It comes a day after Trend Micro also concluded that APT28 appeared to target French presidential candidate Emmanual Macron in the lead-up to France's elections as well.

Known by a host of names, including Fancy Bear and Pawn Storm, APT 28 has long been accepted by cybersecurity experts as an operation from the Kremlin's GRU, or Main Intelligence Directorate, which functions as the Russian government's primary foreign intelligence agency. It's been cited by cybersecurity firms, journalists, and independent investigations of the FBI, CIA, and NSA as the group behind the hacking of and distribution of files relating to Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton and her party during the 2016 election.

Now, along the same lines, Trend Micro has reported that similar attacks have targeted Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Party in Germany as Merkel runs for reelection in September.

The attacks, in both instances, begin with a fairly simple hacker technique: a phishing attack, meaning that a user is tricked into believing a fake login page is real, and proceeds to give their email address and password to the hacker.

Trend Micro's reports found that on at least two separate occasions, April and May in 2016, fake websites that pretended to be CDU, respectively hosted at the domains webmail-cdu.de and support-cdu.de, were actually APT 28 phishing attacks. They seemed to have been unsuccessful, with the German government catching and reportedly fending off the attacks before they were successful.

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Ivanka Trump listens during introductions before a meeting with Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, US President Donald Trump and business leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House on March 17, 2017 in Washington, DC. US President Donald Trump on Friday welcomed German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the White House for talks expected to focus on their differences over NATO, Russia, global trade and a host of other issues. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Ivanka Trump (L) and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (2L) wait for a meeting with US President Donald Trump and business leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House on March 17, 2017 in Washington, DC. US President Donald Trump on Friday welcomed German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the White House for talks expected to focus on their differences over NATO, Russia, global trade and a host of other issues. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 17: German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) speaks with Ivanka Trump during a roundtable discussion on vocational training with United States and German business leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House on March 17, 2017 in Washington, DC. In Merkel's first U.S. visit under the Trump administration, the two leaders discussed strengthening NATO, fighting the Islamic State group, and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. (Photo by Pat Benic-Pool/Getty Images)
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) and Ivanka Trump (R) talk before a meeting with US President Donald Trump and business leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House March 17, 2017 in Washington, DC. US President Donald Trump on Friday welcomed German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the White House for talks expected to focus on their differences over NATO, Russia, global trade and a host of other issues. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) and Ivanka Trump speak during a roundtable discussion between U.S. President Donald Trump and German and U.S. business leaders on vocational training at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Schaeffler CEO Klaus Rosenfeld , Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ivanka Trump participate in a roundtable with U.S. President Donald Trump and German and U.S. business leaders at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (L), Ivanka Trump (2L), US Vice President Mike Pence (C), US President Donald Trump (2R) and others wait for a meeting with business leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House March 17, 2017 in Washington, DC. US President Donald Trump on Friday welcomed German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the White House for talks expected to focus on their differences over NATO, Russia, global trade and a host of other issues. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, flanked by Ivanka Trump and Schaeffler CEO Klaus Rosenfeld (3rd L), participates in a roundtable with U.S. President Donald Trump and German and U.S. business leaders at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Ivanka Trump arrives to attend a joint news conference by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 17: (AFP OUT) German Chancellor Angela Merkel (C), with Ivanka Trump (left center), speaks during a roundtable discussion on vocational training with United States and German business leaders lead by President Donald Trump (not seen) in the Cabinet Room of the White House on March 17, 2017 in Washington, DC. In Merkel's first U.S. visit under the Trump administration, the two leaders discussed strengthening NATO, fighting the Islamic State group, and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. (Photo by Pat Benic-Pool/Getty Images)
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But recently, in an attack that is still ongoing as of Monday, APT 28 is still trying to phish credentials for Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, a think tank associated with CDU, according to Feike Hacquebord, a senior threat researcher at Trend Micro.

That's not to say that such attacks are meant to singlehandedly cause Merkel's downfall. Instead, they may be part of a much broader campaign to target her party in general and access potentially damaging internal communications. Acquiring access to one person's email address, for instance, makes it easier for a hacker to in turn pose as that person to hack their colleagues.

"Our researchers say these are soft targets, and possibly are launching points to other, more high-value targets. It could function as a stepping stone. The actual activity is still ongoing, even as of today," Hacquebord told Vocativ.

The post Russian DNC Hackers Are Now Targeting Germany's Merkel — Report appeared first on Vocativ.

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