Merkel, hundreds of German politicians hit by mass cyber breach

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was just one of several hundred politicians and high-profile persons targeted in a mass cyber theft in recent weeks.

Financial details, credit card details, contacts, cell phone numbers, and private chats were stolen and published on Twitter throughout December, though it was only Thursday that the situation caught the attention of authorities.

The large-scale attack affected almost every German political party. Apparently only the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) was spared from the data theft.

German Justice Minister Katarina Barley called it a “serious attack,” designed to “damage confidence in our democracy and institutions.” It remains unclear who was behind the attack and the motive, but some of the pilfered information is reported to be years old.

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The country’s federal office for information security (BSI) has said government networks were not impacted by the cyber-crime - at least thus far. But it is investigating the matter, along with the National Cyber Defense Center.

The information was shared from the now-disappeared Twitter account, identified as @_0rbit, which was followed by more than 17,000 people, claimed Hamburg as the operating location and described themselves as being involved in security research and satire. The data was leaked in an “Advent-calendar style” which started as “doors” focused on TV personalities, followed by entertainers and lastly politicians.

While the matter remains under investigation, fingers have already been pointed in the press to both right-wing political groups, and Russia. The aftermath from the attack has rattled the political spectrum, with security experts underscoring sloppy privacy practices and password measures.