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What Germany’s Hacks Mean for Cybersecurity

Hack: to gain access to something private and sensitive that could cause cyberwarfare

Last month, hackers leaked sensitive data from hundreds of German politicians. The hackers distributed the information via the Twitter platform, and did not discriminate what they leaked based off of rank; the data pertained to members of the European parliament, German parliament, and regional state parliaments. Not only does this hack reflect just how global of an issue cybersecurity now is, but also points to some potential new patterns for governments to look out for in 2019.

The Revelation of Deeply Personal Information

The criminals and hackers involved in these cyber-attacks not only exposed and endangered their opponents, but borderline slandered them. This overexposure included deeply personal details about high profile figures and their families, including Chancellor Angela Merkel. The information release took place over several days, but were not formally removed until the following Friday.

Overall, it is fair to assume that the intent was not aimed at exposing state secrets, but more on exposing deeply personal information about particular Germans in the spotlight. This data includes internal political communications, credit card information, home addresses, phone numbers, personal identification card details, private chat logs, and voicemails from relatives and children. To make matters more difficult in finding a motive, the leaks contained information from almost all political parties across Germany, except from the far-right group Alternative for Germany.

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What Could Have Prevented the Attack?

Warning signs indicating that a cyber attack loomed over Germany existed long before last December. In 2015, Germany security services uncovered a breach in their parliaments servers. While the parties represented did share a commitment to stop outside interference in German politics, no concrete action was taken to ensure that a similar attack would not be as successful. This example should serve as a reminder for governments across the world to invest in robust cyber-security infrastructure, especially if there have been signs of trouble in the recent future.

As previously mentioned, these attacks took place throughout the month of December. However, the public did not become fully aware of just how much damage had been done until several weeks later. To make matters worse, Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) did not inform the Federal Crime Office until the rest of the general public received word of the attacks. The BSI then backtracked, and said that they only knew about five isolated cases – only when they were able to connect the dots did they decide to share with the public and the Federal Crime Office. This lack of communication exemplifies how all bodies and entities related to cybersecurity need to work closely with one another in order to prove their effectiveness.

The Future of Cyber Attacks

By failing to share the cyber attacks with the Federal Crime Office until the public was fully aware, Germany implies that they were not fully equipped to recognize matters of cybersecurity as a serious criminal concern. In sum, the Germany’s hacks not only demonstrate that cyber criminals will continue to play a role in international politics during 2019, but also the imperativeness of reacting to a threat as soon as it is realized.


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