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German cybersecurity chief fired over alleged Russia ties

October 18, 2022

Germany's interior minister has fired the country's cybersecurity head Arne Schönbohm. The sacking follows reports that he had contacts with Russian intelligence services.

Arne Schönbohm
Schönbohm helped set up an association that has recently come under fire recently for links to Russian intelligenceImage: Rolf Vennenbernd/dpa/picture alliance

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser on Tuesday dismissed the head of the BSI national cybersecurity agency, Arne Schönbohm.

Schönbohm was removed from his role as head of the BSI national cybersecurity agency after media reported that he had links with people involved with Russian intelligence services.

What do we know about the dismissal?

The sacking was first reported by the news magazine, Spiegel, and later confirmed by an Interior Ministry spokesperson. 

"The background to this is not least the allegations, which are well known and widely discussed in the media, and which have permanently damaged the necessary public confidence in the neutrality and impartiality of the conduct of his office as president of Germany's most important cybersecurity authority," the spokesperson said.

There was no initial indication of who would succeed the 53-year-old, who was head of the BSI since February 2016.

Alleged Russia ties 

Faeser was reportedly concerned about Schönbohm's continued contact with an association called the Cyber Security Council of Germany. A scheduled joint appearance by Schönbohm and the interior minister — to report on German cyber security in 2022 — was last week canceled while the ministry sought the clarify the allegations.  

NAFO turns the tables on Russian propaganda

It's thought that the attendance of Schönbohm at the group's anniversary celebrations last month brought matters to a head. 

The cyber chief helped set up the group — which brings together experts from public institutions and the private sector — just over 10 years ago. It advises companies, politicians and authorities on cybersecurity and describes itself as politically neutral.

However, the organization came under fire after Russia launched its war in Ukraine over the connection of one of its members to the Kremlin.

The cybersecurity company, Protelion, which was the major focus of concern, was ejected from the Council last weekend. 

Until March, the firm was named Infotecs and was a subsidiary to its Russian namesake. It was reportedly established by a former member of the Russian intelligence services who was honored by President Vladimir Putin.

rc/wmr (dpa, Reuters)

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