Germany’s election process faces serious cyber threats, says expert

Berlin, Sep 18 (EFE).- Cyber threats against the electoral process in Germany, which concludes on September 26, target politicians and promote disinformation rather than the voting system itself, an expert told Efe.

“It is a serious threat, this is not an imaginary threat, it is an existing one and a growing one,” Sam van der Staak, Head of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance Europe Programme, told Efe in an interview.

“What we’re not seeing is the fears that we had a couple of years ago not just in Germany but globally, which is the threat to the electoral system as such, the election technology and the way the electoral administration runs its business,” he added.

Investigating these threats, Van der Staak has detected activities on two fronts; the hacking of candidates’ emails and misinformation around the elections that will decide the successor of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

He said that despite being alerted to the threat of their emails being exposed, candidates as well as campaign workers and volunteers are often too absorbed in the bid to win the election to give it the required attention.

“We have been trying to get all the political parties to agree on good behavior in the online campaigning during this election and it has been really tough,” the Dutch expert said.

When it comes to disinformation, van der Staak highlights the role of the German outlet of Russian news company RT, which is extremely active on social media, as well as information promoted by personalities on the extreme left and right.

The content disseminated by these sources is not only critical of the German government’s Covid-19 vaccine policies but also raises doubts about the electoral system itself, he added.

“You can speculate about the reason why Russia does so, to a large extent I think it is to sow discord. It’s not to influence the elections directly, it’s not to make sure that this or that candidate wins, it is mostly to show ‘we’re here’,” he said. EFE


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