2 February, 16:17

All German ministries hit by massive email and password theft

All German ministries hit by massive email and password theft

All of Germany's government ministries and 17 members of its parliament were affected by a large-scale data-theft operation conducted by Eastern European hackers last year, the German news magazine Der Spiegel reported Sunday.

A total of 16 million people were affected by the security breach, first reported last month. The theft included the email addresses and passwords for employees at the 14 ministries and those of the lawmakers.

In total, more than 600 email login details were stolen from the government.

The security breach has been known to German authorities since August but was first reported last month.

The Federal Office for Information Security in January set up a website allowing internet users to ascertain whether their data had been accessed by the hackers.

The agency said the criminals had managed to infect millions of computers with a program that enrolled them onto a network, sometimes referred to as a botnet, from which the data was able to be stolen.

Merkel rebukes US, UK over spying, urges Obama to reject surveillance

German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a strong rebuke to the United States and Britain on Wednesday over sweeping surveillance and spying activities reported by former NSA employee Edward Snowden. In a major speech to parliament ahead of talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday, Merkel said that Western powers sacrificing freedom in the quest for security were sending the wrong signal to "billions of people living in undemocratic states."

"Actions in which the ends justify the means, in which everything that is technically possible is done, violate trust, they sow distrust," she said. "The end result is not more security but less."

German government intends to protect its citizens from the invasion of their privacy by foreign special services, said Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday, speaking to the Bundestag.

German Chancellor said that the cabinet continues to have a dialogue with the US on this issue, but cautions against the use of Washington's economic leverage.

According to her, the authorities intend to protect the Internet from inside and from the cybercrime of "comprehensive control from outside."

"It is a question of proportionality. The government of Germany is responsible for protecting its citizens from terrorist attacks, but also from attacks on their personal lives. The approach that the aim justifies the means, leads to lack of confidence and distrust. As a result, security is growing. This is what we are talking about with the United States," she said.

Merkel also commented on the progress of negotiations with the United States on a bilateral agreement on cooperation of intelligence that would guarantee mutual waive of wiretapping.

Earlier, the German media reported that Washington does not want to compromise and negotiations are on the verge of collapse.

As Chancellor noted, "the dialogue continues."

"I bring these negotiations, using the full force of our arguments - no more and no less. And I think we have a good argument," she said.

Merkel warned against pressuring Washington on other areas of cooperation. Thus, she has responded to proposals to stop talks on forming a free trade area between the EU and the US. She said that such steps "never lead to success."

Merkel, whose own mobile phone was monitored by the US National Security Agency (NSA), is planning to travel to Washington in coming months for talks with President Barack Obama.

On Friday, she will hold talks with Kerry "on the transatlantic partnership and global political issues", her spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

Merkel stressed that the allies remain "far apart" on the "ethical question" of freedom versus security in state surveillance.

"Is it right that our closest partners such as the United States and Britain gain access to all imaginable data, saying this is for their own security and the security of their partners?" asked Merkel. "Is it right to act this way because others in the world do the same?" she added before also touching on alleged British spying at international talks.

"Is it right if in the end this is not about averting terrorist threats but, for example, gaining an advantage over allies in negotiations, at G20 summits or UN sessions? Our answer can only be: No, this can't be right. Because it touches the very core of what cooperation between friendly and allied countries is about: trust," she said.

But she vowed she would continue to argue the case strongly.

"Billions of people living in undemocratic states today are looking very closely at how the democratic world responds to security threats - whether it acts with self-confidence and prudence, or whether it cuts off the branch that makes it so attractive in the eyes of billions: the freedom and dignity of the individual."

Voice of Russia, AFP, RIA, dpa

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