Russia hacking Dutch election a warm-up for Germany, France interference: report

Posters for the Netherlands' parliamentary elections, March 2017
Posters for the Netherlands' parliamentary elections, March 2017Photo: Zachary Newmark / NL Times

While the outcome of the Dutch parliamentary elections next week may not be of vital interest to Russia, Russian hackers are targeting the Netherlands as a warm up for the elections in Germany and France, Ronald Prins, co-founder of cyber security company Fox-IT, said to

"The Dutch elections are good practice for them", Prins said. Fox-IT regularly comes across Russian hacker groups APT28 and APT29 while working for clients, which include Dutch intelligence service AIVD and various Dutch Ministries. Digital fingerprints of these two groups were also found in attacks on the Democratic National Convention in the United States and also in Germany and France. 

Tony van der Togt, Russia expert at the Clingendael Institute in The Hague, agrees that the Dutch elections may not be the Russians primary target. "The German and French elections are certainly more important', Van der Togt said to DW. "But the Netherlands is an important business partner of Russia."

Whether or not Russia aims to interfere with the parliamentary elections in the Netherlands next week, the Dutch government is aware of the risk. The AIVD recently revealed that foreign countries, in particular Russia, tried to hack into email accounts of Dutch government employees in at least 100 cases. 

After security experts established that the Netherlands' election software was outdated, the Ministry of Home Affairs decided that all ballots will be counted by hand. 

Van der Togt isn't convinced that Russia is specifically trying to influence the Dutch elections, as it won't gain the country any significant ground. According to him, most political parties in the Netherlands are very wary of Russia and don't want to lift sanctions against the country any time soon. Even populist Geert Wilders and his PVV are careful not to show interest in better relations with Russia. "Russia sin't very popular here, especially since MH17."