German officials recently revealed that the government’s information technology networks have been infiltrated. Security experts discovered malware in the secure computer networks of the foreign ministry. Hackers reportedly targeted the government’s “Informationsverbund Berlin-Bonn” (IVBB) network, a communication platform that German government offices use for fast and secure data exchanges.
The evidence points toward a Russian hacking group implicated in a number of high-profile cyberattacks worldwide. The country’s security agencies suspect that Russian-linked hacking network Fancy Bear, also known as APT28, was behind the attack. Fancy Bear is widely believed to be a proxy for the Russian government and has been operating since at least 2008.
The hackers may have had access to German governmental networks for up to a year. In a statement, the interior ministry said that the breach was “isolated and brought under control.” German officials declined to give further details about the extent of the hack.
The authorities had known about the breach since December. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and the Federal Office for Information Security reportedly allowed the malicious program to keep running in recent months so they could monitor hacker activity. At some point, German officials decided to stop monitoring because no significant data was being transmitted.
Fancy Bear has been connected to an attack that was used to infiltrate the U.S. Democratic National Committee (DNC) before the 2016 presidential election. The Department of Justice identified at least six Russian government officials believed to be tied to the hack on the DNC. The group has also been linked to the hacking of Emmanuel Macron’s election campaign before last year’s French presidential election.
The Russian group is also linked to attacks on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The attack on WADA occurred after the agency recommended Russia be banned from participating in the 2016 Rio Olympics. The IOC was in apparent retaliation for Russia’s ban from the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.
Three years ago, suspected Russian hackers broke into the computer networks at the German parliament and made off with 16 gigabytes worth of data. Some experts believe Fancy Bear was also behind that cyberattack. The stolen information has never been published.