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Data of German politicians and public figures leaked online

The personal data and documents of hundreds of politicians and public figures in Germany have been exposed o...

Posted: Jan 4, 2019 6:35 PM
Updated: Jan 4, 2019 6:35 PM

The personal data and documents of hundreds of politicians and public figures in Germany have been exposed online, a government spokeswoman said Friday.

Martina Fietz told reporters that German lawmakers at all levels, including from the European parliament, German parliament, and local politicians, had been impacted.

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The data included credit card details, phone numbers and email addresses, one political party told CNN.

Several German media outlets reported that German Chancellor Angela Merkel was affected by the breach, but Fietz said no sensitive information from Merkel's office had been published.

"The federal government takes these incidents very seriously," Fietz told a news conference Friday. "The authorities are working flat out to determine the extent and background of the incident and to provide assistance to those affected."

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said "data may have been obtained through the misuse of access data to cloud services, e-mail accounts or social networks."

Journalists and artists have also fallen victim to the data leak, Seehofer said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

It appeared that all parties in the Bundestag -- Germany's federal parliament -- had been affected, interior ministry spokesman Sören Schmidt said during the same news conference.

A Twitter account, registered to a user claiming to be in Hamburg, published the private information daily in the style of an advent calendar in the lead up to Christmas, Schmidt said. The Twitter account used to spread the personal data has since been deleted.

Hamburg's data protection authority said in a statement Friday that it had asked Twitter to remove a list of short links to other platforms where the data still exists, but had not received an answer from the social network. The agency said it was working with Irish data protection authorities to stop the further dissemination of the data.

Schmidt added the German Chancellery was made aware of the leak on Thursday night and as a result the country's National Cyber Defense Center convened a crisis meeting on Friday.

"Germany's government network is not affected but we are still investigating," he said.

Earlier Friday, a spokeswoman for Germany's Left Party told CNN around 100 of its politicians had "been affected by a hacking incident."

Arne Schönbohm, president of the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), told CNN affiliate RTL that one political party was not affected, but didn't name the party.

BSI believes data from about 1,000 people was involved, Schönbohm said, adding that a "high two-digit number of attacks were carried out successfully," whereby accounts were infiltrated and documents, information and data such as ID cards were extracted.

The armed forces were unaffected by the leak, the defense ministry said.

A spokesman for the German state broadcaster ARD told CNN it was "examining whether and to what extent individual employees are affected.''

This is not the first time German politicians have been targeted.

A cyber attack targeted parts of the German government network, including the foreign ministry, early last year, Reuters reported.

And in 2015, pro-Russian hackers claimed responsibility for a series of cyberattacks that brought down government websites.

On Friday, Fietz told reporters that it was "too early at this stage to compare this incident to that in previous years."

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