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October 18, 2022

Germany’s cybersecurity chief sacked over alleged connections to Russia’s secret service

Arne Schoenbohm's ties to Moscow have seen him removed from his post heading German cybersecurity operations.

By Claudia Glover

The head of Germany’s national cybersecurity agency was sacked today over allegations of his ties to the Russian government.

Arle Schoenbohm stands accused of connections to the GRU, and has been relieved of his post. (Photo by Pool/Pool at Getty Images)

Arne Schoenbohm was relieved of his post as head of the BSI security agency by Germany’s interior minister Nancy Faeser after a number of negative stories about his relationship with companies linked to Russia’s security forces came to light.

Schoenbohm, who has been in post since 2016, denies any wrongdoing, but has been “forbidden from continuing his job as president of the BSI federal information security agency with immediate effect”, an interior ministry spokesperson told Reuters.

The spokesman continued: “The background to this is not least the allegations, which are well known and widely discussed in the media, and which have permanently damaged the necessary public confidence in the neutrality and impartiality of the conduct of his office as president of Germany’s most important cybersecurity authority.”

Schoenbohm founded the Cybersecurity Council of Germany in 2012. News outlets in Germany have this week reported the group has connections to the Russian security services. The Cybersecurity Council has rejected these allegations, describing them as “absurd”.

It advises the German authorities, as well as companies and individual politicians, on cybersecurity matters. The council has described itself as politically neutral, but one of its members is a German company that is a subsidiary of a Russian cybersecurity firm, founded by a former KGB employee.

German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel was the first to publish the allegations, and Schoenbohm said in a statement to the publication that he had asked the Interior Ministry “to initiate disciplinary proceedings to clarify the facts”. He added: “So far I do not know what the ministry has checked and what the specific allegations against me are.”

These allegations come amid concern in Germany that its critical national infrastructure may be targeted by Russia due to Berlin’s support of Ukraine, reports the Associated Press.

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German companies have been regular targets for Russian hackers since the war in Ukraine. Building supplies business Knauf was hit by the Black Basta gang in July, causing significant supply chain disruption, while food manufacturer Apetito was targeted by Russian hackers in a breach which left the company’s British subsidiary unable to deliver school meals.

Read more: Cyberattacks are the biggest risk to the UK financial system

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