BERLIN Germany's military will launch a cyber command next week as part of an effort to beef up online defences at a time when German spy agencies are warning of increasing cyber attacks by Russia.
The German military remains a high-value target for hackers, with some 284,000 complex and professional would-be attacks registered in the first nine weeks of 2017, a ministry spokesman said. No damage had been reported thus far, he added.
Cyber attacks on militaries are rising worldwide, with many now creating separate commands to tackle the issue.
NATO, which says it has seen a five-fold increase in suspicious events on its networks in the past three years, agreed last June to designate cyber as an official operational domain of warfare, along with air, land and sea.
The new German command will based in Bonn with an initial staff of 260, growing to around 13,500 in July when the military's current strategic reconnaissance command and centres for operational communication and geoinformation are folded in.
By 2021, the command is due to have a total of 14,500 positions, including 1,500 civilian jobs.
"The expansion of cyber capabilities is an essential contribution to the government's overall security posture, and offers additional opportunities for preventing conflicts and dealing with crises to include hybrid threats," the ministry spokesman said.
Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen will name Lieutenant General Ludwig Leinhos to head the new Cyber and Information Space Command - the sixth major wing of the military in addition to the navy, army, air force, medical service and joint forces.
Chancellor Angela Merkel this month said protecting German infrastructure from potential cyber attacks was a top priority.
In December, Germany's domestic and foreign intelligence agencies cited increasing Russian cyber attacks against political parties, as well as propaganda and disinformation campaigns aimed at destabilising German society.
Russia denies engaging in such attacks.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; editing by Mark Heinrich)