Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Attacks/Breaches

1/4/2019
03:55 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail
0%
100%

Data on Hundreds of German Politicians Published Online in Massive Compromise

Authorities are investigating if breach resulted from a leak or a cyberattack.

Private emails, contacts, copies of identity cards, and other personal information belonging to hundreds of German politicians — including Chancellor Angela Merkel — were recently stolen and published on Twitter through the course of December.

The cause of the huge breach is still being investigated. But some media outlets, including Reuters, quoted Germany's Interior Minister Horst Seehofer as saying the data appears to have been illegally obtained by someone using stolen login information for cloud services, email accounts, and social media accounts belonging to the victims.

There is no evidence that the German government's IT systems or networks were compromised, Seehofer said. German investigators are trying to figure out if the breach was the result of a deliberate leak by someone with access to the data or came from a cyberattack, according to Reuters, quoting an unnamed source.

The data that was leaked via Twitter last month included figures from every major political party in Germany except Alternative for Germany (AfD), a far-right-wing party, the BBC reported. The leaked information included Merkel's email address and several emails that she sent and received. Other victims included member of Germany's national parliament, MPs from state parliaments, and a handful of journalists and TV personalities.

The victim profile has led to speculation that some German right-wing groups may have been behind the leak. There is also some suspicion that a Russian advanced threat group, working on behalf of the government, may have been involved, the BBC said.

CrowdStrike, a security vendor that tracks multiple Russian threat groups, says the data currently available suggests the Twitter accounts that were used to post the data were likely managed by the same group of individuals.

 "An analysis of the Twitter follower network used to leak the data indicates that the leak may have a political angle," says Adam Meyers, CrowdStrike's vice president of intelligence. "The motivation behind the leaks remains unclear. With the analysis presently available, CrowdStrike Intelligence cannot rule out an information operation."

On Friday, the Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information noted that the office had asked Twitter to remove access to links pointing to the stolen data but has not heard back from the company. The Twitter account that was used to publish the data has already been shut down. The effort now is try and block links pointing to other platforms where the actual data is located, the Commissioner said in a statement.

"The amount of data published is immense," the Commissioner's office noted. Even though the information that has been leaked has no public safety implication, the potential damage to the affected individuals is significant, it said.

Dave Weinstein, vice president of threat research at Claroty, says that based on the range of information leaked, the breach appears to result from numerous types of account compromises, including email as well as social and financial accounts.

The hackers could have used numerous tactics to compromises these accounts, including spearphising and other forms of social engineering. "It's also possible that these accounts were protected by weak passwords and little to no other authentication controls, which would have made it easier for the attackers to gain access without detection."

Given the victim profile the motivations are very likely political and ideological in nature, Weinstein says. "The absence of right-wing victims suggests that the perpetrator might be a right-wing activity, but it is hardly a conclusive indicator at this point."

The nature of the German data compromise has evoked some comparisons to the 2016 attacks on the Democratic Party networks in the US and the misinformation campaign in the run-up to the presidential election.

"There is a history of Russian state sponsored interference and cyberattacks into western democracies, particularly those aligned with NATO," says Matt Walmsley, EMEA director at Vectra.

Though there's no evidence to support any direct attribution yet, if Russia was the attack, it would not be surprising if threat actors like the Sofacy group (aka Fancy Bear/APT28) were involved. In the past, the group has been linked to attacks on the German parliament, he notes. "Erosion of confidence in the government could benefit nation states wishing to promote political instability in Germany," Walmsley says.

Related Content:

Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
REISEN1955
50%
50%
REISEN1955,
User Rank: Ninja
1/7/2019 | 1:27:03 PM
As a Jew
I hate to admit it but I am smiling at this one.....
Data Privacy Protections for the Most Vulnerable -- Children
Dimitri Sirota, Founder & CEO of BigID,  10/17/2019
Sodinokibi Ransomware: Where Attackers' Money Goes
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  10/15/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
7 Threats & Disruptive Forces Changing the Face of Cybersecurity
This Dark Reading Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at the biggest emerging threats and disruptive forces that are changing the face of cybersecurity today.
Flash Poll
2019 Online Malware and Threats
2019 Online Malware and Threats
As cyberattacks become more frequent and more sophisticated, enterprise security teams are under unprecedented pressure to respond. Is your organization ready?
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-18216
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-20
** DISPUTED ** The BIOS configuration design on ASUS ROG Zephyrus M GM501GS laptops with BIOS 313 relies on the main battery instead of using a CMOS battery, which reduces the value of a protection mechanism in which booting from a USB device is prohibited. Attackers who have physical laptop access ...
CVE-2019-18214
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-19
The Video_Converter app 0.1.0 for Nextcloud allows denial of service (CPU and memory consumption) via multiple concurrent conversions because many FFmpeg processes may be running at once. (The workload is not queued for serial execution.)
CVE-2019-18202
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-19
Information Disclosure is possible on WAGO Series PFC100 and PFC200 devices before FW12 due to improper access control. A remote attacker can check for the existence of paths and file names via crafted HTTP requests.
CVE-2019-18209
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-19
templates/pad.html in Etherpad-Lite 1.7.5 has XSS when the browser does not encode the path of the URL, as demonstrated by Internet Explorer.
CVE-2019-18198
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-18
In the Linux kernel before 5.3.4, a reference count usage error in the fib6_rule_suppress() function in the fib6 suppression feature of net/ipv6/fib6_rules.c, when handling the FIB_LOOKUP_NOREF flag, can be exploited by a local attacker to corrupt memory, aka CID-ca7a03c41753.