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.