Suspect in German politicians' data hack arrested

VIDEO: REUTERS

BERLIN • Police in Germany said yesterday that they have arrested a 20-year-old suspect in the case of private data stolen from hundreds of politicians - including Chancellor Angela Merkel - and published online.

"The prosecutor's office in Frankfurt, the Central Office for Fighting Internet and Computer Crime and the Federal Police Office (BKA) searched the apartment of a 20-year-old suspect on (Sunday) and took him into custody," the BKA said in a statement.

Media reports said the suspect, who was detained in the western state of Hesse, had confessed to the authorities and was believed to have acted alone. The BKA declined to comment.

The stolen information, which comprised home addresses, mobile phone numbers, letters, invoices and copies of identity documents, was first released via Twitter last month, but its spread gathered pace last week.

Among the estimated 1,000 people affected were members of the Bundestag (Germany's Lower House of Parliament), the European Parliament, as well as regional and local assemblies.

Deputies from all parties represented in the Bundestag were targeted, with the exception of the far-right Alternative for Germany, the largest opposition group in Parliament.

News weekly Der Spiegel reported that police had tracked down the suspect based on witness accounts and "digital evidence" left online. He had destroyed his computer by the time they raided his home.

 
 
 

Although the leak was sweeping, there is no evidence that sensitive information had reached the public, investigators and the Interior Ministry have said. In the vast majority of cases, only basic contact information was made available.

The leak has nevertheless been deeply embarrassing for the political class and turned up the heat on the unpopular Interior Minister Horst Seehofer.

Critics said the ministry and the authorities were slow in informing affected politicians of the leak and in moving to stop it.

Information technology experts said it was only by luck that the data theft had not been far more damaging.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2019, with the headline 'Suspect in German politicians' data hack arrested'. Print Edition | Subscribe