Editorial: German hack exposes cyber vulnerability

ABU DHABI, 5th January 2019 (WAM) – While technology brings with it huge advantages, there is a dangerous flip side to it, said the daily ‘Gulf Today’ in an editorial Saturday.

Private data that has been stolen from hundreds of German politicians, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, and released online indicates the extent to which damage could be inflicted by unscrupulous hackers on individuals and organisations.

The fact that the information, which comprised home addresses, mobile phone numbers, letters, invoices and copies of identity documents, was published via Twitter in December but only came to light this week shows that the world needs to recognise the vulnerability of the virtual world and act more vigorously to counter such malicious activities.

The extent of the damage could be surmised from the fact that among those affected were members of the Bundestag lower house of parliament, the European Parliament, as well as those from regional and local assemblies. Deputies from all parties represented in the Bundestag were also affected, as well as President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Beyond politicians, the leak also exposed the private data of celebrities and journalists.

Some consolation comes from the fact that preliminary investigation indicated no sensitive information or data from Merkel’s office had been leaked.

It may be recalled that last year, the country’s domestic intelligence service, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, said there had been repeated cyberattacks against MPs, the military and several embassies that were allegedly carried out by Russian Internet espionage group “Snake.” Computer networks belonging to the German government came under sustained attack and data from foreign ministry staff were stolen.

The fact that no right-wing politicians in the country were targeted in the latest cyber attack gives a twist to the controversy, which needs to be analysed by the investigative agencies.

It is true that such digital attacks are something most countries will have to adapt to in future. The susceptibility of such a powerful nation to cyber attacks hints at problems countries with much lesser facilities and infrastructure could face.

Such cyber crimes are not acceptable anywhere in the world and can only be perceived as an attack on democracy and institutions. Whichever individual or organisation is behind such act should be identified and made accountable.

“Cyber vandalism,” as former US president Barack Obama once dubbed such actions, needs a stronger response. What is called for is an effective system that could help utilise the benefits of digital technology even while protecting against negative impacts.


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