The data of hundreds of Germany’s most powerful leaders was posted online in the days before Christmas. Some of the stolen information was freely available online for weeks before the attack came to prominence. Politicians are now asking why federal authorities seemingly weren’t aware of the data leak.
Among the hundreds of documents leaked to the social media site were photo ID cards, cellphone numbers, and addresses belonging to members of nearly every German political party. The hackers also published invoices and private communications. Some of the stolen information was years old.
The breach affected politicians at all levels, including the European, German and state parliaments as well as municipal officials. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been confirmed as one of the victims along with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. The Christian Democratic Union party, the Social Democratic Party of Germany, the Free Democratic Party, and the Green Party were all hacking targets. The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) was the only main party whose members were spared.
According to reports, the hacked information was leaked via two Twitter accounts named @_0rbit and @_0rbiter. One of the accounts had previously published private data belonging to celebrities. The main account had been active since mid-2017, had more than 16,000 followers, and the last post was on Dec. 28. The two Twitter accounts and a related blog page are now suspended.
Germany’s government called the mass exposure of the private data a serious attack. The head of Germany’s IT security agency, Arne Schoenbohm, said the agency believes data on about 1,000 people were involved. Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said an initial analysis suggests the data was obtained from social networks, email accounts, or cloud services.
It remains unclear who is behind the attack. Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security, along with the National Cyber Defense Center, is investigating the matter. Some say the data dump echoes what happened to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee in the United States in the months before the 2016 presidential election.