Hackers have posted the personal information of hundreds of German politicians and influencers – including the country’s chancellor Angela Merkel – on Twitter.
The leaked data included credit card details, phone numbers, addresses, personal letters and copies of identity cards, public broadcaster ARD TV said on Friday, although there are no “politically sensitive” documents.
The leak, which saw the data posted in daily batches before Christmas on a Twitter account that has been active since mid-2017, affects almost all political parties as well as some prominent journalists and YouTubers.
Broadcaster RBB and weekly magazine Spiegel reported the far-right Alternative for Germany had not been affected. But Interior Ministry spokesman Soeren Schmidt said it appeared that all parties in parliament had been affected.
“By what means these data that have now been published were obtained can’t be stated with certainty at this time,” Schmidt said at a regular government news conference in Berlin.
The Twitter account in question, which was still online early on Friday with about 17,000 followers but had been suspended by around midday, last posted on December 28. The details have been online since then, but only came to light on this week. The chancellor’s office was informed on Thursday evening.
News agency dpa reported that the leaked information included a fax number and email address belonging to Chancellor Merkel and several letters to and from her.
Merkel’s spokeswoman, Martina Fietz, said politicians at all levels, including the European, German and state parliaments as well as at municipal level, appeared to have been affected.
“The German government takes this incident very seriously,” Fietz added.
She told reporters: “As regards the chancellery, it appears at first sight that no sensitive information and data are included in what was published, including regarding the chancellor.”
Germany’s BSI national cyber defence body met early on Friday after it received news of the hack, a spokesman told Reuters. The identity of the hackers and their motive are not known.
The Rheinische Post newspaper said in its online edition President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was among the victims of the leaks.
“I can confirm that there has been an incident”, a spokesman for the left wing Linke Party said, adding that Dietmar Bartsch, leader of the party’s group in Germany’s lower house of parliament, was among those affected.
Alexander Dobrindt, the conservative Christian Social Union’s top legislator in Berlin, said authorities are working to establish “what data are affected and to what extent”.
The government’s IT security agency said its initial analysis was that government networks were not affected.
Germany has seen cyber attacks on government and parliament computer systems in recent years. Fietz cautioned that previous experience suggested such data dumps can include fake information.