German cyber chief at risk of being sacked over Russia link – POLITICO

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser is considering ousting the head of the country’s cybersecurity agency after an investigation by public broadcaster ZDF into cultivating too close ties with groups linked to the Russian state, local media report.

Arne Schönbohm, the head of the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), in 2012 founded an industry group called the Cyber ​​​​Security Council, which according to national media has been compromised by the Russian interests.

“He is examining how a quick change of president can be achieved,” the Bild Faeser newspaper told a source close to the minister. The news magazine Der Spiegel confirmed that the minister wanted to impeach Schönbohm, citing « government circles ».

The issue that prompted government intervention is that the Cyber ​​Security Council Germany, an industry association that Schönbohm founded in 2012 and chaired until he became head of the BSI in 2016, is subject to espionage and influence from Russian companies and even Moscow intelligence agencies, according to the ZDF broadcast. Magazin Royale said in a report aired on October 7.

A member company of the association, Protelion, offered computer security software to German companies and politicians as « Made in Germany » when in fact the software came from the Russian company « Infotecs », which was founded by a former member of the Soviet Union. KGB-era security service.

In a statement, the Cyber ​​Security Council Germany called the accusations of Russian interference « absurd ». He said that Protelion and Infotecs did not become involved in the association until June 2020 and « since then there have been no discussions or joint projects with representatives of the company ».

ZDF’s Royale magazine – the German equivalent of the Daily Show – also found a 2019 interview with the current chairman of the Cyber ​​Security Council Germany, Hans-Wilhelm Dünn, in which he said « it is important to maintain communication with all the actors concerned, and of course with Russia, with China and with other States” in terms of cybersecurity, adding “with all the actors concerned, including the intelligence services”.

Schönbohm in 2019 had banned employees under his authority from participating in this association’s events but still attended the association’s 10-year event himself on September 9. Faeser’s ministry approved Schönbohm’s attendance before he left, Business Insider reported.

Schönbohm has led the BSI since 2016. He was criticized for his lack of competence in cybersecurity by opposition MPs even before his appointment. The BSI deals with cyberattacks and network protection and plays a key role in the new German cybersecurity program.

The BSI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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