Picture: iSTOCK
Picture: iSTOCK

Berlin — German prosecutors arrested a 20-year-old man from the state of Hesse in an investigation into the release of private data linked to Chancellor Angela Merkel and hundreds of other politicians and public figures.

The individual was apprehended by authorities after his home was raided on Sunday. The suspect, who evidently acted on his own, is a student who lives with his parents, Der Spiegel reported citing unidentified investigators. Further details will be provided by Frankfurt prosecutors later on Tuesday, the country’s Federal Crime Office said in a statement.

The arrest comes just days after the biggest dump of hacked data in Germany became public. Before media outlets reported on the hack late last week, authorities failed to react to the leaked data, which had trickled out over weeks. The information — including e-mail addresses, cellphone numbers and chat transcripts — were leaked via a Twitter account called “G0d” that described itself using the words “security researching,” “artist” and “satire & irony”.

Germany has seen a range of intrusions in recent years. Hackers tried to infiltrate computers of think-tanks associated with the governing CDU and SPD parties in 2017. A year earlier, scammers set up a fake server in Latvia to flood German lawmakers with phishing e-mails.

Chat transcripts

In 2015, attackers breached the network of the Bundestag parliament and stole 16GB of data. Security firm Trend Micro has linked the Bundestag attack and others to Pawn Storm, a group with ties to Russia — whose government has repeatedly denied hacking foreign powers.

There was never any information leaked from the Bundestag breach in which hackers roamed the network for more than a week before they were detected. The Bundestag’s entire IT system had to be taken down for several days to fix the problem.

The German government has since bolstered its tech  protections, setting up a cyber-defence unit in 2017 staffed by thousands of soldiers and IT experts to protect military networks and key infrastructure such as power plants and hospitals.

The data also includes what appears to be chat transcripts from economy minister Peter Altmaier as well as more mundane material such as rental-car contracts. The attack affected all major German political parties, with the exception of the populist Alternative for Germany.