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Cyber attack on DLR

April 13, 2014

A major German research center is reported to have come under a sustained cyber attack for a period of months. There are indications that a foreign power may have been behind the attack.

Deutsches Luft- und Raumfahrtzentrum DLR
Image: picture-alliance/Sven Simon

Several news agencies reported on Sunday that officials with the German government and the Cologne-based German Aerospace Center (DLR) had confirmed a report first published by Spiegel newsmagazine.

According to the Spiegel report, IT specialists have found traces of spyware on computers used both by scientists and systems administrators at the DLR. Some of the spy programs are said to have been designed to self-destruct upon discovery, while others didn’t become active until months after they had gained access.

"The government regards the attack as extremely serious because among other things, it is aimed at armament and rocket technologies," the Spiegel article said. It also described the attack as "coordinated and systematic."

The Bonn-based Cyber-Defense Center has been called in to investigate.

According to the Spiegel report, there are some indications that China may have been behind the attack. However, the AFP news agency cited a German government source who said such clues could have been built into the spyware as means of throwing investigators off the trail.

It is not clear what consequences this could have for a cooperation agreement between Germany and China in the field of space research. Germany was the first country to enter into such an agreement with China.

pfd/msh (dpa, AFP, Reuters)