Angela Merkel, Til Schweiger Among Victims of Massive German Data Dump

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Angela Merkel

The hack — one of the biggest in German history — came to light Friday after it was reported by German network RBB and confirmed by police.

German movie stars, comedians, rappers and hundreds of the country's top politicians — including German Chancellor Angela Merkel — were the victims of a massive data dump, with their personal data, including in some cases cellphone numbers and credit card and banking details, published online.

The hack — one of the biggest in the country's history — came to light Friday after it was reported by German network RBB and confirmed by police. But apparently the hack had been underway for several weeks, if not months. Information from numerous German celebrities — including Inglourious Basterds actor Til Schweiger, German comedian Jan Bohmermann and local rapper Sido — was first posted online back in December.

Another major data dump followed Dec. 20.

Personal information from hundreds of German politicians from all parties represented in the federal parliament, with the exception of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), was posted on Twitter. The information included mobile phone numbers, credit card and banking details and private messages and chats. The data was leaked over the past weeks via a Twitter account called “G0d” that identified itself using the descriptions “satire & irony," “artist” and “security researching” and claimed to be based in Hamburg.

Both Chancellor Angela Merkel and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier were targeted, though a government spokeswoman told reporters Friday that an initial review found “no sensitive information and data” was leaked. The published data on the Chancellor included Merkel's fax number, email address and several letters written by and addressed to her, German media reported.

It is unclear who was behind the hack or what their motivations could be. German Justice Minister Katarina Barley described the incident as a "serious attack” and claimed the perpetrators "wanted to damage our trust in democracy and our institutions.”

This most recent data breach follows a major hack on the German parliament in 2015 in which perpetrators copied some 16 gigabytes of private email data from numerous politicians and government workers. Security officials have blamed most previous attacks on Russian hacking group APT28, which experts say has close ties to a Russian spy agency. Experts held the same group responsible for an attack ahead of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Bild, a German tabloid newspaper, reported Friday that German authorities had asked the U.S. spy agency NSA for help in investigating the incident.

But there has been speculation that the hack was the work of a single individual. In an online interview with newspaper the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Tomasz Niemiec, a German YouTuber, claims to have communicated with the alleged hacker. Niemiec says he believes the hacker comes from the local YouTube scene and is mainly looking to attract attention.

Germany's digital defense body, the BSI, said Friday on Twitter it is "intensively" investigating the hack in “close cooperation” with other federal institutions, adding that "according to what we know so far" the government's confidential networks were unaffected.