Local media reports had claimed that an ex-Russian spy may have infiltrated a cybersecurity group that Arne Schonbohm co-founded
German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser has reportedly fired the president of the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), Arne Schonbohm, according to DPA and Der Spiegel. Earlier this month, media reports claimed that the official may have been in contact with Russian intelligence operatives via a cybersecurity group he co-founded a decade ago, and which had allegedly been infiltrated by Russian spies.
On Tuesday, German news agency DPA published an article saying that Schonbohm had been removed from office. Der Spiegel came out with a similar piece, citing security sources.
According to the publications, the Interior Ministry is launching a disciplinary procedure against the former BSI chief.
Schonbohm was quoted by Der Spiegel as saying that “since there had been no feedback regarding the accusations, I asked to launch a disciplinary procedure to clarify the circumstances of the case.”
He added that so far, he does not know “what the ministry has examined and what the specific accusations against me look like.”
Last week, German tabloid Bild and news channel ZDF reported that Faeser was planning to remove the BSI president from office.
According to the outlets, the Cyber Security Council of Germany, which Schonbohm co-founded in 2012, counted Berlin-based company Protelion among its members. It is believed to be a subsidiary of Russian cybersecurity company OAO Infotecs, which, according to the Policy Network Analytics research group, was founded by a former employee of the KGB.
Commenting on the reports, Germany’s Interior Ministry issued a statement, saying it “takes the matters reported over the weekend seriously and is investigating them comprehensively.”
However, ZDF said that under German law, it is impossible to simply fire Schonbohm, and the authorities are reportedly considering a new job for him elsewhere.
The Cyber Security Council of Germany dismissed the claims of Russian infiltration as “absurd.” The association insists that Protelion only joined it in 2020, and “since then, there have been neither discussions nor joint projects with representatives of the company.”
Berlin has accused Moscow of targeting its digital infrastructure on multiple occasions, with the latest claims pertaining to alleged Russian cyberattacks prior to the general election in September 2021.
Moscow has repeatedly denied the allegations.
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