German Cyber Security Chief Sacked

Germany's cyber security chief has been sacked after a TV satire show accused him of having ties to the Russian intelligence services.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser dismissed Arne Schönbohm as head of the BSI agency, following reports which "damaged the necessary confidence of the public in the neutrality and impartiality" of his management, the ministry said on Tuesday 18th October.

Schönbohm co-founded a cyber security group ten years ago that brought together experts from government and the private sector. 

Schönbohm, who was the boss of the agencies overseeing the government’s computer and communication security, came under scrutiny after his links to a Russian company in a previous job. This was  highlighted by Jan Böhmermann, a German comedian, in a late-night satire show.

The German government said more than a week ago that it was investigating the reports comprehensively.

"These accusations must be decisively investigated," Konstantin von Notz, the head of the parliamentary oversight committee for Germany’s intelligence agencies, said recently.

There is a growing concern in Germany that the country's critical infrastructure might be targeted by Russia because of Berlin's support for Ukraine, something that BSI has warned about in recent times.

The accusations against Schönbohm came as German police were probing an act of “sabotage” on the country’s rail infrastructure, with some officials pointing the finger at Russia in the wake of the Nord Stream pipeline explosions.

Important communications cables were cut at two sites on 8 October, forcing rail services in the north to be halted for three hours and causing travel chaos for thousands of passengers.

It further emerged that even though Schönbohm had been urged to distance himself from the Cyber Security Council Germany he had co-founded, the cyber security chief had appeared at the lobbying association’s 10th anniversary party as recently as early September.

Germany has in recent years repeatedly accused Russia of attempting cyber espionage.

The most high-profile incident blamed on Russian hackers to date was a cyberattack in 2015 that paralyzed the computer network of the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, forcing the entire institution offline for days while it was fixed.

Russia denies the allegations but tensions between Russia and Germany have increased since Russia began the war with Ukraine.

Euronews:     Guardian:     Telegraph:    Moscow Times:    DW:     FT

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