Hack Attacks

Berlin Under Cyber-Siege

The Bundestag only recently stopped the digital attack. Source: Handelsblatt/imago
The Bundestag will have to replace most of its IT equipment.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germany’s digital defenses have proven to be woefully weak, threatening the integrity of the government’s dealings.

  • Facts


    • Hackers penetrated to the deepest levels of the Bundestag’s network, even obtaining administrator privileges.
    • Security experts think a foreign intelligence service could be behind the attack.
    • The European Central Bank is looking into bank security against cyber attacks.
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As a member of the German parliament’s intelligence oversight committee, Burkhard Lischka handles top-secret documents every day. But over the past few weeks these files may have been compromised after hackers infiltrated much of the German Bundestag’s computer network – an attack that was known about but, it has just emerged, was hugely underestimated. “I actually should have stopped working,” Mr. Lischka said.

Many German lawmakers failed to take the unprecedented cyber attack seriously at first. But that all changed when the government’s IT security experts discovered the extent of the hacking.

On Thursday, Bundestag President Norbert Lammert called on the Verfassungsschutz, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, for help. The move came after specialists from the Federal Office for IT Security, or BSI, told parliamentarians that hackers, likely working for a foreign intelligence service, had penetrated the heart of the Bundestag’s network, even gaining administrative privileges. It was the digital equivalent of an open wound.

Though there is no more data flowing, the threat is far from over. At the very least, servers which cannot be reliably cleansed will have to be replaced. Hackers could have uploaded timed malware that might only be activated months from now.

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