The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) also sees an “increased risk” of Russian acts of sabotage in Germany. “These capabilities are actually available and can also be used against German targets and, above all, critical infrastructures if necessary,” said BfV President Thomas Haldenwang at a symposium held by his authority in Berlin.
There are already “preparatory actions” such as spying on the IT of utility companies. “We are already seeing corresponding spying operations, but not yet the massive cyber attack against German critical infrastructure.”
“We are well positioned”
Very strong forces for cyber attacks have been set up in Russia, said Haldenwang. These are currently being used primarily against the infrastructure in Ukraine. If these were used against the USA, Western Europe or Germany, “then we really have to reckon with complex attacks”. At the same time, Haldenwang emphasized: “We are well positioned. We will be able to face that well.”
The President of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution also reported a “high intensity” in the reconnaissance activities of the Chinese intelligence services. The transfer of know-how is still the focus here. “But for the declared goal of global, political, military, economic and scientific leadership, Beijing continues to use enormous human and financial resources for espionage operations.”
Beijing acts more discreetly than Moscow
Complex cyber attacks can also be observed in the case of China – but also “an increased interest in spying on German politics in all fields,” said Haldenwang. “While Moscow’s revanchism has revealed itself as aggressive and militaristic, Beijing is acting far more discreetly, strategically and with long-term goals.”
Haldenwang said the intensity, scope and complexity of activities in the Russian intelligence services had increased noticeably since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. Conventional access to information has been drastically reduced for Russia, also because of the Europe-wide expulsion of several hundred employees of its intelligence services. “Now they are forced to use alternative methods to satisfy their great interest in enlightenment.”
Agents, cyber attacks and false identities
This happens, for example, through cyber attacks, classic agents or so-called smuggled illegals with false identities. “For Germany, the risks have increased. Any naivety is out of the question here,” warned Haldenwang.
He pointed out that Russia addressed disinformation in Germany directly to conspiracy believers and extremist spectrums on the political fringes of society. There it will be taken up, disseminated and its effect reinforced. The powerful machinations of foreign authoritarian regimes interacted with the rise of authoritarian ideas at home. “Thanks to digital means of communication, both external influencers and domestic extremists not only have a well-stocked toolbox, but also find a richly laid table of topics.”
The tasks ahead of us to maintain democracy are demanding, said Haldenwang. “We must oppose powerful powers and extremist tendencies.” However, the liberal democracies have it in their own hands. You don’t have to worry about comparing the systems. “Our opponents defend the freedom of a regime from its subjects. We defend democracy and the dignity of free citizens.”
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