AAccording to the findings of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), US secret services and other possible saboteurs are systematically searching the Internet for information about the German digital, electricity and gas networks. The “Süddeutsche Zeitung” reported on Thursday, citing a “safety notice for the economy” from the Federal Office. Accordingly, companies, authorities and industry associations should no longer put so much data, maps and blueprints online so as not to provide any indications of possible attack targets.
According to the report, publications that are freely available on the Internet often provide very detailed information. This applies, for example, to presentations that were originally aimed at authorities and market participants, but also to maps showing the locations of systems or routes.
“Starting points for acts of sabotage”
In this way, “weak points and thus starting points to carry out physical and cyber-based acts of sabotage can be identified,” warn the intelligence officers. Worse still is that companies also put detailed instructions for crises on the Internet, giving secret services and terrorist groups the opportunity to “interrupt or at least disrupt the emergency processes” after an attack.
In this context, there is also criticism of the legal transparency obligations for companies, which would have to be completely reconsidered in view of the Ukraine war and other new threats. For example, Deutsche Telekom no longer wants to supply some of the data required for the so-called infrastructure atlas, a kind of digital map of Germany.
However, the responsible Federal Network Agency rejected the criticism and stated that the “tension” between the information needs of the market players and the public as well as the necessary need for secrecy is regularly checked and reassessed.
The background to the debate is not least the attack on two fiber optic cable shafts of Deutsche Bahn in October last year, with which previously unknown perpetrators largely paralyzed train traffic throughout northern Germany for hours. The case caused a stir in security circles, mainly because not only a cable in Berlin, but also the replacement line in Herne, 500 kilometers away, had been severed. The perpetrator or perpetrators therefore had to have a great deal of insider knowledge.