January 21, 2019
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German data leak hits politicians

Berlin, Jan 5 (efe-epa).- German authorities are investigating the leaking and hacking of personal data belonging to hundreds of politicians and other personalities in one of the country's largest cyber breaches, according to a report from Dow Jones Newswires supplied to EFE on Saturday.

The leaks, which were mainly disseminated through a Twitter account that the company shut down on Friday, included personal data from Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said government officials. No sensitive information from the politicians were released and government networks weren't affected, authorities said.

German authorities say they don't yet know who was responsible for the leaks or what their motives were. The perpetrators also targeted German politicians from the European parliament to the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament, as well as local and regional representatives, German celebrities, journalists and artists, according to authorities.

Among the victims were TV presenter and satirist Jan Böhmermann and actor Til Schweiger, added the Dow Jones report.

The only political party in the Bundestag that didn't have its data leaked was the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany, or AfD, according to the Interior Ministry. An AfD spokesman confirmed that.

Germany's cybersecurity agency BSI, said some of the data was leaked before Christmas but only noticed Thursday after a big data drop somewhere else appeared online late in the day. The suspended Twitter account showed posts linking to data archives stretching back to Dec. 1 and repeating daily in the manner of an advent calendar, which is popular among children in Germany in the run-up to Christmas.

Authorities said that thousands of personal items were published online, including mobile numbers and addresses of politicians a well as personal data such as credit-card details, bills and even chats with family members.

Not all of that data had been obtained through attacks. BSI's chief, Arne Schönbohm, said hackers had obtained private data and documents from dozens of people. But much of the information leaked from about 1,000 people was already publicly available.

The incident heightened concerns about cybersecurity in Germany. The country has among the most onerous privacy legislation in the world and has experienced repeated attacks in the past.

"The federal government is taking the incident very seriously," said a government spokeswoman.

Politicians from across the spectrum called for a swift investigation of the incident. Opposition members also pressed for new measures to enhance cybersecurity.

"This is a massive intrusion on our democratic rights, our right to privacy and the right to freedom," said Britta Hasselmann, a senior parliamentary group official for the Green Party. "We finally need real proactive measures to increase IT security."

Schönbohm rejected concerns about insufficient IT security. "There are no big gaps in the system," he told reporters, citing measures taken in recent years to protect namely people in the public eye.

The incident follows a string of cyberattacks on both German politicians and companies that has raised alarm bells in Berlin and prompted the government to step up defenses of firms that are most vulnerable.

In 2015, the Bundestag suffered an extensive breach, leading to the theft of several gigabytes of data by what German security officials now believe were Russian cyber thieves. In February 2018, the government's highly protected computer network was also attacked. German companies also have been the target of sustained attacks by state-sponsored hackers, mainly believed to be Chinese.

Various authorities, from the German Federal Office for Information Security, to Germany's domestic and foreign intelligence agencies BfV and BND, to the federal criminal police agency BKA are working to verify the extent and nature of the most recent data leak.

By Ruth Bender

dj/sh

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