France and Germany that are gearing up for elections in 2017 are reportedly setting up defences to counter potential cyberattacks and misinformation campaigns emerging from Russia. Concerns have been raised following the release of a declassified report by US intelligence agencies over Russian “influence operations” and President Vladimir Putin alleged involvement in directing an elaborate cyberespionage campaign to sway the 2016 US presidential election in Donald Trump’s favour.
“We can’t exclude that operations of the same nature seen in the United States aim to disturb the French electoral system,” said French Defence Minister Jean-Yves le Drian. “I urge everyone to install the greatest vigilance,” he added.
EU and Nato are slated to set up dedicated centres to spot “fake news” and boost cyber-defences to fend off potential attacks. European nations will also monitor social media and would focus on far right groups, Russian-speaking communities, political parties, voters and decision makers to check for “influence operations”. However, intelligence experts believe that the EU may be too late in setting up effective measures to counter attacks.
German intelligence officials believe that there is already Russian support of eurosceptic and anti-immigration parties across EU. German chancellor Angela Merkel had previously said that the possibility of Russian interference in this year’s election could not be ruled out.