German spy chief wants to hit back at hackers amid increasing cyberthreats

Hans-Georg Maassen, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency chief, reportedly said that German intelligence agencies need to do more than just protect and defend the county’s digital infrastructure. He called for intelligence agencies to counter cyberattacks launched by hackers and cyber-enemies, according to a report.

“We think it’s essential that we don’t just act defensively, but that we are also able to attack the enemy so that he stops continuing to attack us in the future,” Maassen, president of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), told the German news agency dpa, the Guardian reported.

Maassen’s comments come after the recent devastating terrorist attack on a Berlin Christmas market, which has resulted in the nation adopting a tougher stance against violence and terror. The German spy chief’s comments also come amid allegations of Russian hacking, feared to have been directed by the Kremlin, in efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election.

According to reports, recent attacks, both in cyberspace and in the real world have triggered concerns about the competence and abilities of German intelligence agencies as well as police forces, in their ability to respond and mitigate attacks.

Maassen lamented that his agency was not authorised to delete files that had been accessed or stolen by hackers and stored on external servers. “Thus we have a high risk that the damage will increase, because third parties as well as the culprit can access the data,” he said.

The spy chief also called for more open regulations and unhindered authority, which would allow his agency to “disable attack structures that pose a grave threat to our cybersecurity”. Germany’s domestic intelligence agency claims to have noted a recent and substantial rise in spear-phishing attacks in the past few months, which involved hackers sending fake emails to a targeted organisation, with the intention of accessing classified information.

In November 2015, Bruno Kahl, president of the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), warned of the possibility of Kremlin-linked state-sponsored hackers attempting to influence the upcoming German general election in 2017 by propagating misinformation and hacking government emails.


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