Hundreds of German politicians hit by elaborate data leak

4 Jan 2019358 Views

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Reichstag building, Berlin. Image: © Noppasinw/Stock.adobe.com

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German chancellor Angela Merkel is one of the hundreds of politicians affected by a data leak.

A massive cache of documents containing the personal data of hundreds of German politicians has been leaked online via Twitter.

Today (4 January), Martina Fietz, spokesperson for the German government, confirmed that the data leak affected politicians from regional, national and European parliaments. Fietz added that the government is “taking this incident very seriously”.

Major investigation underway

The data had been published online via Twitter in December, but German media reports only emerged on Thursday (3 January). According to German newspaper Die Zeit, the Twitter account ‘@_orbit’ released the data as a sort of ‘Advent calendar’ throughout December. A report from broadcaster RBB Inforadio said the account is located in Hamburg and has since been closed. It reportedly had more than 18,000 followers.

The Federal Office for IT Safety (BSI) said that it is investigating the leak, which targeted all of Germany’s political parties represented in the federal parliament, with the exception of the far-right AfD party.

Data published on Twitter included mobile phone numbers, contact information, credit card and banking details, and private chats. Justice minister Katarina Barley described the incident as a “serious attack”. She added: “The perpetrators wanted to damage our trust in democracy and our institutions.”

Angela Merkel affected

Angela Merkel’s email address and several private letters to and from the chancellor were leaked. While no politically sensitive data was revealed, some personal chats about family life were among documents seen by ARD reporter Michael Götschenberg. There is a chance that some of the documents may have been faked. Other German public figures targeted include TV presenter Til Schweiger and rapper Sido.

At this stage in the investigation, it is not yet clear whether the officials were targeted by hackers or are victims of an internal leak. German newspaper Bild said it was not apparent when the theft of the data began, but said it continued until the end of October 2018.

Last year, German officials said there had been repeated cyberattacks against politicians, the military and several embassies. The country established a cybersecurity department in 2016 to establish a coordinated response to online threats.

Ellen Tannam is a writer covering all manner of business and tech subjects

editorial@siliconrepublic.com