German suspect confesses to data leak

A 20-year old German man has come clean and confessed to the data leak affecting hundreds of high-profile figures in Germany, according to a BBC report.

The young German, who was still education and lived with his parents, was detained after police searched his home in the Western State of Hesse on Sunday evening.

The suspect told investigators that he acted alone and had stated that he acted “out of annoyance over public statements made by the politicians, journalists and public figures concerned,” the Federal Crime Office (BKA) said in a statement.

“The investigations have so far provided no indication of the participation of a third party.”

Data leak

The student published private data about politicians, journalists, and celebrities on Twitter, under the username @_0rbit throughout December. Angela Markel and the German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, were among those caught up in the data breach, which affected around 1,000 people.

In most cases, the information published online was limited to private email addresses and telephone number, but in around 60 cases more sensitive private information was exposed.

Mrs. Merkel, for example, had her email address and correspondence letters were made public. The leaked information included details on members from all parties in the German parliament except those from the far-right AfD party.

Heiko Loehr, head of cybersecurity at BKA, said that it was too early to say whether the hack was politically motivated.

“We are still investigating his motives and whether they may have been criminal or politically motivated,” he told reporters at a press conference.

He also said that the police are currently carrying out further investigations to find out whether the suspect worked alone.

Investigators seized his computers after they searched his home, the head of cybersecurity said. He confirmed that the suspect attempted to destroy a computer before his house was raided by police, but said investigators managed to retrieve data from the device.

Holger Muench, head of BKA, said the suspect did not use malware but instead used “hacking methods to overcome passwords”.

Prison charges

The suspect could face charges of spying on private data and its unauthorised release and could face up to several years in prison. However, since the suspect is still under the age of 21,  his case will be considered under juvenile law.

According to Juvenile law in Germany, the maximum prison sentence for juveniles are much lower than for adults.

The data leak has prompted further calls to improve cybersecurity measures in Germany.


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