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TECHNOLOGY

Hacker, 22, who released personal data of German politicians charged

German prosecutors said Tuesday they had brought charges against a 22-year-old hacker who released personal data of dozens of politicians, journalists and other public figures online, embarrassing national authorities.

Hacker, 22, who released personal data of German politicians charged
Photo: DPA

The German man — arrested in January last year — is accused of multiple computer crimes, as well as making false reports to the police and attempted blackmail.

Police at the time of his arrest said he had confessed to stealing and leaking online private data — so-called “doxxing” — from hundreds of politicians and public figures, among them Chancellor Angela Merkel.

READ ALSO: Suspect, 20, arrested over massive German politician data hack

The accused said his motive was being “annoyed” at some of their public statements.

The 2018 case prompted German authorities to promise beefed-up IT security, coming just three years after the federal parliament's computer network was crippled by a hacking attack since pinned on the Russian state by Berlin's intelligence services.

Tuesday's charges cover 73 cases where the accused acquired “personal data, especially telephone numbers, addresses, credit card data, photos and communications” belonging to his targets.

Investigators said he used email providers' password reset facilities to gain access to the people's accounts, as well as trawling a “hacker website” shut down by American authorities in January 2020 for login details already acquired by third parties.

When arrested, officials said the suspect had made a “comprehensive” confession and shown “clear remorse” for his hacking attacks on around 1,000 people.

Between December 1 and December 24, 2018, he released a drip-feed of personal data on his Twitter account with the display name “G0d” in a so-called “advent calendar”.

He repeated the data drop the following month using the Twitter account of a YouTube personality to which he had acquired access.

Further charges include a blackmail attempt against six German MPs, in which the hacker demanded Bitcoin payments worth around €900 in exchange for withholding their personal data.

He is also accused of making three false reports to the police of imminent bomb attacks or mass shootings between June 2016 and December 2018, as well as triggering two investigations against other people with false crime reports in the same period.

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POLITICS

Sleep, seaside, potato soup: What will Merkel do next?

 After 16 years in charge of Europe's biggest economy, the first thing Angela Merkel wants to do when she retires from politics is take "a little nap". But what about after that?

Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes and smiles at a 2018 press conference in Berlin.
Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly closes her eyes at a 2018 press conference in Berlin. Aside from plans to take "a little nap" after retiring this week, she hasn't given much away about what she might do next. Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP

The veteran chancellor has been tight-lipped about what she will do after handing over the reins to her successor Olaf Scholz on December 8th.

During her four terms in office, 67-year-old Merkel was often described as the most powerful woman in the world — but she hinted recently that she will not miss being in charge.

“I will understand very quickly that all this is now someone else’s responsibility. And I think I’m going to like that situation a lot,” she said during a trip to Washington this summer.

Famous for her stamina and her ability to remain fresh after all-night meetings, Merkel once said she can store sleep like a camel stores water.

But when asked about her retirement in Washington, she replied: “Maybe I’ll try to read something, then my eyes will start to close because I’m tired, so I’ll take a little nap, and then we’ll see where I show up.”

READ ALSO: ‘Eternal’ chancellor: Germany’s Merkel to hand over power
READ ALSO: The Merkel-Raute: How a hand gesture became a brand

‘See what happens’
First elected as an MP in 1990, just after German reunification, Merkel recently suggested she had never had time to stop and reflect on what else she might like to do.

“I have never had a normal working day and… I have naturally stopped asking myself what interests me most outside politics,” she told an audience during a joint interview with Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

“As I have reached the age of 67, I don’t have an infinite amount of time left. This means that I want to think carefully about what I want to do in the next phase of my life,” she said.

“Do I want to write, do I want to speak, do I want to go hiking, do I want to stay at home, do I want to see the world? I’ve decided to just do nothing to begin with and see what happens.”

Merkel’s predecessors have not stayed quiet for long. Helmut Schmidt, who left the chancellery in 1982, became co-editor of the weekly newspaper Die Zeit and a popular commentator on political life.

Helmut Kohl set up his own consultancy firm and Gerhard Schroeder became a lobbyist, taking a controversial position as chairman of the board of the Russian oil giant Rosneft.

German writer David Safier has imagined a more eccentric future for Merkel, penning a crime novel called Miss Merkel: Mord in der Uckermark  that sees her tempted out of retirement to investigate a mysterious murder.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel forms her trademark hand gesture, the so-called “Merkel-Raute” (known in English as the Merkel rhombus, Merkel diamond or Triangle of Power). (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP)
 

Planting vegetables
Merkel may wish to spend more time with her husband Joachim Sauer in Hohenwalde, near Templin in the former East Germany where she grew up, and where she has a holiday home that she retreats to when she’s weary.

Among the leisure activities she may undertake there is vegetable, and especially, potato planting, something that she once told Bunte magazine in an interview in 2013 that she enjoyed doing.

She is also known to be a fan of the volcanic island of D’Ischia, especially the remote seaside village of Sant’Angelo.

Merkel was captured on a smartphone video this week browsing the footwear in a Berlin sportswear store, leading to speculation that she may be planning something active.

Or the former scientist could embark on a speaking tour of the countless universities from Seoul to Tel Aviv that have awarded her honorary doctorates.

Merkel is set to receive a monthly pension of around 15,000 euros ($16,900) in her retirement, according to a calculation by the German Taxpayers’ Association.

But she has never been one for lavish spending, living in a fourth-floor apartment in Berlin and often doing her own grocery shopping.

In 2014, she even took Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to her favourite supermarket in Berlin after a bilateral meeting.

So perhaps she will simply spend some quiet nights in sipping her beloved white wine and whipping up the dish she once declared as her favourite, a “really good potato soup”.

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