Hundreds of German politicians, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, were robbed and published personal information online.
Contacts, private chats and financial information were posted on Twitter, which belong to figures from all political parties except the far-right AfD. There were also leaks of data from celebrities and journalists.
It’s unclear who was behind the attack on Twitter in the style of last month’s advent calendar.
How wide was the attack?
The true extent of the leak damage is not yet known, although Minister of Justice Katarina Barley said it was a “serious attack.”
“The people behind this want to undermine our trust in democracy and our institutions,” she said.
A government spokesperson said that no sensitive information was published from the Chancellor’s office. MPs, Euro MPs and national parliamentary MPs have been affected, Martina Fietz said.
She said that the government was not yet sure that cyber hackers had stolen the data. Some reports suggest that a solitary leaker has access to sensitive data through his or her work.
A cyber analyst told the BBC that hackers could exploit weaknesses in email software to obtain passwords that were also used in social media accounts. As far as it is aware, the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) said that government networks were not affected. Although nothing politically explosive has been leaked, the sheer volume of personal data involved suggests that the consequences could be considerable, says Michael Götschenberg, RBB reporter, who investigated the attack. Many of those targeted are MPs in the German Bundestag.
The Twitter account now suspended, followed by 17,000 people, appeared to be operated from Hamburg, he said. Although documents were posted on the account last month, officials did not become aware of the robbery until Thursday evening. The Bild newspaper reported that all the data stolen during the attack date back to October 2018, but it was not clear when it started.
Who was the target?
National and local political figures and certain TV figures have been robbed of their details.
Chancellor Angela Merkel: her email address and several letters to and from the Chancellor appear to have been published
The main parliamentary groups, including the centre – right and centre – left ruling parties, as well as The Greens, the left – wing Die Linke and the FDP.
Only AfD seems to have escaped Green leader Robert Habeck, who had private chats with family members and credit card details posted online Journalists from public broadcasters ARD and ZDF as well as TV satirist Jan Böhmermann, rapper Marteria and rap group K.I.Z, reports.
Another TV satirist, Christian Ehring, is said to have stolen and posted 3.4 gigabytes of data online, including holiday magazines. Last year, he won a court case brought by AfD leader Alice Weidel, who complained about his television show calling her a “slut.”
Centre – left SPD MP Florian Post said that he was ” much shocked ” by the leakage of account statements and other online details, but he added that at least one file posted was fake. Who’s been behind this attack? In both Germany and Russia, immediate suspicion fell on the right – wing groups. German cyber security analyst Sven Herpig said that Russia was a suspect, not only because of the method employed, but also because Germany faced four state elections in 2019 and the European Parliament elections.
The fact that no right – wing politicians were targeted while prominent figures who had criticized them were spared indicated, however, that domestic right – wingers were also responsible, he told the BBC.
Russia was previously accused of cyber-attacks in Germany. Data were collected from computers in the Bundestag in 2015.
Last year, the IT network of the government was attacked in the midst of reports that Russian hackers were also responsible.
UK – based expert Graham Cluley said the breadth of the latest hack suggested that over many months it was a coordinated effort involving a specific group. “Obviously, this hack is not about extorted or financially motivated. It is an attempt to destabilize the society of Germany, “he told the BBC.