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Merkel hit by hack that stole private data from German politicians

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Merkel hit by hack that stole private data from German politicians
Photo: DPA
15:46 CET+01:00
The German Chancellor has had private information and correspondence published online in part of a huge hack on politicians in the German parliament.

An email address, a fax number and several letters both written by and to Angela Merkel have been published by a website that has stolen personal documents and information belonging to German politicians. It is unclear at this stage how sensitive the leaked correspondence from the Chancellor is.

"Personal data and documents belonging to hundreds of politicians and public figures were published on the internet," government spokeswoman Martina Fietz told reporters. "The government is taking this incident very seriously."

Fietz said the political officials included members of the Bundestag lower house of parliament, the European Parliament as well as regional and local assemblies.

Deputies from all parties represented in the Bundestag were affected, she added.

But Fietz said that a preliminary investigation indicated that "no sensitive information or data" from Merkel's office had been leaked.

Broadcaster RBB first reported in Thursday evening that hackers have published online sensitive information belonging to politicians from all the main parties in the German parliament except for the Alternative for Germany (AfD).

The huge dump of information includes credit card details, hundreds of mobile phone numbers and even private chats with family members, RBB reported.

SEE ALSO: Security crisis: Hackers invade German government's data network

First evaluation of the hacked data suggests that there is no politically explosive information contained within it, RBB suggests.

It appears rather that the hackers have published everything they could get their hands upon, from application forms to attend party conferences to lists of party members.

According to the report, a Twitter account started posting links to the hacked data before Christmas in a daily “advent calendar.” It is unclear why the hack hasn't emerged until now.

By midday Friday, Twitter had suspended the account.

Despite an apparent lack of sensitive political documents, the leak still poses a threat to the privacy of many MPs. Some have had copies of their ID cards published while others have had credit card details and personal correspondences revealed.

RBB reports that the owner of the website on which the leaked information appears to live in Hamburg. The information is also likely to have been gathered in hacks on several sources due to the massive quantity of details stolen.

Parliamentary group leaders were notified of the attack late Thursday and the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) and the domestic intelligence service said they were investigating.

"According to our current information, government networks have not been targeted," BSI tweeted.    
The Twitter account @_0rbit published the links daily in the style of an advent calendar, with each entry representing a "door", behind which was a link to new information.

The account, calling itself G0d, was opened in mid-2017 and purportedly had more then 18,000 followers. 

It described its activities as "security researching", "artist" and "satire and irony".

The Bundestag (German parliament) and other institutions of the German state have proven to be enticing fruit for hackers over the past few years.

The domestic intelligence service, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, reported repeated cyberattacks last year against MPs, the military and several embassies allegedly carried out by Russian cyber espionage group "Snake".

Also known as "Turla" or "Uruburos", the group, which targets state departments and embassies worldwide, is believed to have links to Russian intelligence.

In February last year German intelligence authorities announced that they had been tracking a hack on the foreign and defence ministries that had been going on since the summer of the previous year. A Russian hacker collective linked to the Kremlin was believed to be behind the attack.

That followed a targeted hit on leading politicians from the major political parties in the build up to the Bundestag election. Intelligence authorities believed the hack was backed by a foreign power seeking to influence the election’s outcome. In the end, no leaked emails played a part in the 2017 election, as happened in the US the previous year.

 
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