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Germany fires its cyber security chief over possible ties with Russia

After media reports suggested that the country’s cybersecurity director may have interacted with Russian security circles through a company he co-founded, Germany’s interior ministry sacked him on Tuesday and opened an inquiry into his behavior.

After a satirical TV programme exposed his connections to a cybersecurity consultant that included a member of a German subsidiary of a Russian company formed by a former KGB operative, Arne Schoenbohm has come under fire recently.
Before being named head of BSI, the federal information security agency, in 2016 by former Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, a conservative, Schoenbohm had co-founded the Cyber Security Council Germany to advise businesses and authorities on cybersecurity problems.

The allegations, according to a spokesperson for the interior ministry, which is now led by the Social Democrats, “permanently damaged the necessary public confidence in the neutrality and impartiality of his conduct in his office as president of Germany’s most important cybersecurity authority,” which was the reason Schoenbohm was fired.

Schoenbohm claimed that he had personally requested the government to conduct an investigation on Monday.

He stated, “I am still unsure of what the ministry has looked into and what the specific charges against me are.

He told Reuters that he was no longer involved with the council and that the lone exception was that he gave the keynote address at its 10th anniversary in September after getting approval from the interior ministry.

Konstantin von Notz, a Greens politician who chairs the parliamentary panel overseeing Germany’s intelligence agencies, urged the ministry to make clear the accusations against Schoenbohm and respond to other unanswered queries, such as who it would propose to succeed him.
He told the Handelsblatt newspaper, “We need clarity over the hard subject of whether or not there was Russian spy activity surrounding the BSI. “We cannot allow this body’s integrity to be further compromised.”

The comedian Jan Boehmermann revealed ten days ago in his late-night television programme that the council had included Berlin-based Protelion GmbH, formerly known as Infotecs, a subsidiary of a Russian corporation formed by an ex-KGB official, among its members since 2020.

The consultant last week argued that it had been unaware of the suspected connections between Protelion GmbH’s Russian services, which it had dismissed after the TV documentary aired.

Neha Ayub
Written By

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