Russia suspected after data hack targeting top politicians and celebrities rocks Germany

BERLIN — Private data and correspondence of German politicians and public figures including Angela Merkel were put online in one of the biggest hacks in the country’s history.

Emails, phone numbers and holiday photos of MPs, journalists and entertainers were released by a Twitter account. Much of the data was mundane, but a Bild reporter claimed evidence of “nepotism and political scandals.”

Politicians from all German political parties except the nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) were targeted. In an embarrassment to German security services, it emerged that the data had been released in a series of daily instalments since Dec 1 but went unnoticed by authorities until Friday.

The data was released via a Twitter account in the name of @–Orbit. The account has since been suspended and some shared files taken down.

Suspicion will be directed at Russian state-sponsored hackers. Germany’s intelligence agency, the BfV, has previously accused hackers for the Russian state of a series of cyber attacks.

The German Federal Office for IT Security said it was “intensively examining the case in close co-operation with other federal authorities” and there was “no risk to government networks.”

Katarina Barley, the German justice minister, said: “Those responsible want to damage confidence in our democracy and their institutions.” Details are yet to emerge of exactly what the trove of leaked data includes. Many reports spoke of mundane information such as email addresses and private phone numbers, but Julian Ropcke, of Bild newspaper, tweeted that he had found “shocking” details.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said an initial analysis suggests that the material was obtained from cloud services, email accounts or social networks. He said there was no indication that federal government or parliament computer systems were compromised.

Merkel, the German chancellor, and Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the president, were among those targeted.

Martina Fietz, a spokeswoman for Merkel, told reporters that “it appears, at first sight, that no sensitive information and data are included in what was published, including regarding the chancellor.”

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