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Germany building new army of 13,500 'cyber soldiers'

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Germany building new army of 13,500 'cyber soldiers'
File photo: DPA.
10:53 CEST+02:00
The German military (Bundeswehr) on Wednesday is launching a brand new “cyber army” to fight against digital attacks on networks and weapons systems. But some are concerned about how this new unit might engage in cyber assaults itself.

Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen will announce the new unit in Bonn on Wednesday afternoon. The ministry wants to deploy around 13,500 soldiers and civilian workers by 2021 to protect the Bundeswehr's networks and weapons systems, but the unit must also be capable of launching their own attacks against hackers.

The Chief of Staff of the new cyber army is Lieutenant-General Ludwig Leinhos, who is an expert in electronic warfare.

Cyber attacks are a growing concern in Germany, with the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) reporting last year that the government's computer networks are hit by around 20 highly specialized attacks per day.

German intelligence agencies and the BSI last year began work on setting up their own special cyber response teams.

According to broadcaster N-tv, the Bundeswehr's new cyber soldiers will be on equal ranking with their colleagues in the army, air force and marines - and their new beret colour will be grey.

Parliamentary ombudsman for the Bundeswehr, Hans-Peter Bartels (SPD), warned that the new cyber unit should be kept under parliamentary control, though, as part of their work would entail launching cyber attacks of their own.

Bartels told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung on Wednesday that the cyber army must seek permission from the Bundestag (German parliament) before launching such assaults.

“Every offensive measure of our constitutionally enshrined parliamentary army needs to have the explicit mandate of the Bundestag,” Bartels said, adding that this policy goes for not only military assaults, but also virtual attacks on the data network of an adversary.

Bartels stressed that the cyber army was desperately needed to protect the Bundeswehr's computer and weapons systems. But he also criticized the fact that the new unit is only now being created.

“Germany is not a pioneer here,” he said. “One can already learn from the experiences of other countries, like the USA or Israel.”

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