Russian hackers claim attack on Dutch parties in European elections

Russian-linked hacking groups have previously carried out DDoS attacks and other cyber offensives against a range of public and private sector targets in NATO countries amid escalating tensions over the war in Ukraine.

Several leading Dutch political parties came under a disruptive cyber attack as the Netherlands kicked off voting in the European Parliament elections, temporarily disabling their websites. A Russian hacking group called Killnet claimed responsibility for the distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks meant to overwhelm the parties’ sites.

The affected parties included the governing centre-right Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) as well as the far-right Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV) and Forum voor Democratie (FvD). Their websites experienced outages before engineers were able to restore operations.

Thierry Baudet, the leader of the FvD party, sarcastically questioned whether Russians were behind the attack before Killnet’s claim.

While the apparent cyber assault did not impact any voting systems or processes according to officials, it represents an alarming escalation in efforts to potentially disrupt or influence the European elections through sabotage and disinformation. The Netherlands is the first of 27 EU member states to open polls, with other countries voting over the next several days until balloting concludes on June 9.

Russian-linked hacking groups have previously carried out DDoS attacks and other cyber offensives against a range of public and private sector targets in NATO countries amid escalating tensions over the war in Ukraine. However, directly targeting political parties and election systems represents a significant escalation.

As Dutch authorities investigate the attack’s origins, they pledge that voting will proceed securely. However, the incident has renewed focus on the resiliency of democratic institutions and infrastructure against potential cyber interference by the Kremlin or its proxies.

For Western democracies already grappling with foreign interference, disinformation, and domestic extremism, the alleged Russian attack on Dutch political parties will likely intensify scrutiny over their cybersecurity vulnerabilities and preparedness to defend the integrity of future elections. As voting continues across Europe, authorities will be on high alert for any signs of additional malicious cyber activity or foreign meddling.

Given the high stakes and interconnected nature of the digital domain, the fallout from this latest cyber incident could have ramifications extending far beyond the Netherlands in the escalating contest between Russia and Western powers over securing a rules-based global order.