Germany suffers giant data leak
Personal data and correspondence from hundreds of German politicians and powerful figures, including Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has been released online in one of the biggest hacks in German history.
Emails, telephone numbers and holiday photos of parliamentarians, journalists and comedians were tweeted.
A Bild reporter, Julian Röpcke, alleged he found evidence of “nepotism and political scandals”.
Politicians from all major parties, except the extremist Alternative for Germany (AfD), were targeted, prompting speculation the hackers may have had far-right sympathies.
TV personalities Jan Böhmermann (pictured), associated with the controversial attack on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Christian Ehring, actor Til Schweiger, YouTuber LeFloid and rapper Sido were also targeted.
The dumped data ranged from internal party memos to photographs of ID cards, letters, emails, invoices, chat transcripts, mobile numbers and bank card information, as well as random categories.
The data has been released in daily instalments since December 1, but the government only said it spotted the leaks yesterday (Thursday).
Government spokeswoman Martina Fietz said the leak affected politicians in the European, federal and regional parliaments, adding that fake documents could be among the leaks. “The German government is taking this incident very seriously,” she said.
The Twitter account, @_Orbit, registered to what it claims to be Hamburg, has been suspended and some of the files have been removed.
The domestic intelligence agency, the BfV, has previously accused hackers of working for the Kremlin, which it said had backed a series of cyber attacks on the Bundestag parliament and other major institutions.
The breadth and depth of the dumped data suggest a sustained operation that was ongoing for several years.
The German Federal Office for IT Security said it was “intensively examining the case in close cooperation with other federal authorities” and there was currently “no risk to government networks”.
“Those responsible want to damage confidence in our democracy and their institutions,” justice minister Katarina Barley said.
Robert Habeck, the Green Party leader, was one of those worst hit with private family photos being leaked along with work emails.
The fact that AfD politicians were not targeted in the leaks will raise suspicions those responsible may be supporters or allied to the far-right party in some way.
It recently emerged that three prominent AfD members flew to Moscow in a private jet paid for by the Russian authorities in 2017. Two of the AfD politicians have since left the anti-immigrant party.
Jan Böhmermann. Picture credit: Wikimedia