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German politicians’ personal data hacked and posted online

German politicians’ personal data hacked and posted online

Sensitive data belonging to hundreds of German politicians has been leaked online via a Twitter account. The huge cache of documents included personal phone numbers and addresses, internal party documents, credit card details and private chats, government spokeswoman Martina Fietz confirmed on Friday. Fietz told a government press conference that an initial analysis suggested the…

Sensitive data belonging to hundreds of German politicians has been leaked online via a Twitter account.

The huge cache of documents included personal phone numbers and addresses, internal party documents, credit card details and private chats, government spokeswoman Martina Fietz confirmed on Friday.

Fietz told a government press conference that an initial analysis suggested the leak affected politicians of all levels, including the European parliament, German parliament and regional parliaments.

“The German government is taking this incident very seriously,” she said.

The documents were published online via Twitter in December but came to light only when reports emerged on Thursday night.

The weekly news magazine Spiegel said it had evaluated a sample of the data and found that all of the main German political parties apart from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party had been affected.

Angela Merkel’s email address and several letters to and from the chancellor appear to have been published, German media reported, though a government spokeswoman said no sensitive information from the chancellory was leaked.

Merkel’s Christian Democrats and their Bavarian sister party the CSU, along with the Social Democrats (SPD), have been evaluating the scale of the damage and the authenticity of the documents, as have the Liberal FDP, the Left party, and the Greens.

“We have been dealing with the issue since yesterday evening and are currently informing our people,” an SPD spokesman told German news agency dpa, adding that the party had been in contact with the relevant authorities.

“You have to ask yourself where all this data comes from,” the ARD reporter Michael Götschenberg, who had seen part of the leaked cache, told rbb info radio on Friday.

The Greens had been particularly targeted by the leak, said Götschenberg, adding he had seen internal party communications, written documents and invoices, some of it several years old.

While no politically sensitive data appeared to have been leaked, some “especially painful” personal chats relating to family life were among the documents he had seen, he added.

At least some of the documents may have been faked. The SPD MP Florian Post told German news wire dpa that he had never seen at least one message attributed to his communications.

Other reports listed photos of ID cards, direct debit documents and details of family members’ credit cards as being among the documents. Celebrities and journalists were also targeted.

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 leaks began with data from German TV personalities Jan Böhmermann and Til Schweiger, the Youtube star LeFloid and the rapper Sido. From 20 December the links switched to include data from politicians.

The account, calling itself G0d, was opened in mid-2017 and purportedly has more then 18,000 followers. It described its activities as “security researching”, “artist” and “satire and irony” and said it was based in Hamburg.

A motive for the leak remains unclear, as does how it could have stayed unnoticed for more than 10 days over Christmas. Spiegel reported that the Twitter account followed only a couple of others, including anonymousnews.ru, a site known for spreading far-right hate speech.

An interior ministry spokesman refused to confirm or deny whether the documents had been published following an external hacking attack on the German parliament or an internal leak.

In 2015, Germany’s federal office for information security had to shut down intranet services after it emerged that hackers had installed spyware on the system. In 2016, the defence ministry set up a cyber department to coordinate a response to online intrusions.

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