German minister seeks rules to attack hackers on foreign soil

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(Bloomberg) -- Germany is trying to beef up its cyber defense, after the interior minister called for rules that allow nations to attack foreign hackers targeting critical infrastructure.

Europe’s biggest economy is currently evaluating whether it needs to draft new legislation to ensure its security forces are legally cleared to defend the country against cyber attacks that target, for example, its electricity infrastructure, according to Thomas de Maiziere.

“We need international rules, but also in Germany, that besides protection and defense enable the tracing and also -- if needed -- the elimination of a foreign server,” De Maiziere told ARD in an interview Sunday. A decision on new rules will have to be made "very soon" after the federal elections, he said.

Government institutions, armed forces and companies are fielding hundreds of cyber attacks a day, many from foreign servers in Russia, China and Iran, according to the armed forces, the Federal Office for Information Security and the domestic intelligence agency BfV.

Hackers have in the past targeted the computers of the German armed forces, the Bundestag parliament and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU party. Western nations with a valuable industry like Germany’s are regularly targeted by foreign hackers, BfV President Hans-Georg Maassen said last month at a technology conference in Hanover, Germany.

The Bundestag’s revamped security system averted another attack earlier this year that lured lawmakers to a manipulated website of the Jerusalem Post, the country’s Federal Office for Information Security said last month.

There’s growing concern in the country over warnings that Russia may seek to destabilize the German government and meddle with the country’s Sept. 24 federal elections. Germany’s Bundeswehr armed forces inaugurated a new cyber defense unit last week that by July will have a staff of 13,500 to defend against online attacks.

Cyber security has been top of the agenda for European politicians. French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron said Monday that if elected he will push for a European Union initiative allowing governments to requisition information from major technology companies such as Google and Apple Inc. to bolster counter-terrorism efforts.

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