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Computer hackers

Twenty-year-old suspect held over massive German politician data leak

  • Information included addresses, mobile phone numbers and copies of IDs, including those belonging to Chancellor Angela Merkel
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 January, 2019, 5:18pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 January, 2019, 9:50pm

German authorities on Tuesday said a 20-year-old hacker had confessed to stealing and leaking private data from hundreds of politicians, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, because he was “annoyed” by some of their public statements.

The young German, who lives with his parents, was taken into custody after police searched the family home in the western state of Hesse on Sunday.

The suspect was not remanded in custody however because he was fully cooperating with the inquiry and not deemed a flight risk, said Georg Ungefuk, a spokesman for the Frankfurt prosecution service’s internet crime office ZIT.

“The accused said he published the data because he had been annoyed by certain statements made by those affected,” Ungefuk told a press conference in Wiesbaden.

The suspect, who because of his young age falls under juvenile law in Germany, told police he acted alone.

Ungefuk said the young man had shown “clear remorse” about the stunning cybersecurity breach which affected around 1,000 German politicians, journalists and celebrities and piled political pressure on the government.

The information, which included home addresses, mobile phone numbers and copies of identity documents, was first released on Twitter in December but its spread gathered pace last week.

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Among the people affected were members of the Bundestag lower house of parliament and the European Parliament as well as regional and local assemblies.

Deputies from all parties represented in the Bundestag were targeted except those from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), the largest opposition group in parliament.

Although the leak was sweeping, there is no evidence sensitive information reached the public, investigators and the interior ministry insisted.

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The case has been deeply embarrassing for the political class, and increased pressure on unpopular Interior Minister Horst Seehofer.

The leak also exposed the private data of celebrities and journalists, including chats and voicemail messages from spouses and children of those targeted.

The information came both from social media and private “cloud” data.

The Twitter account @_0rbit published the links every day last month, along the lines of an advent calendar with each link to new information hidden behind a “door”.

The account, which called itself G0d and has now been suspended by Twitter, was opened in mid-2017 and was said to have more than 18,000 followers.

It described its activities as “security researching”, “artist” and “satire and irony” and said it was based in Hamburg.