As cyberattacks are on the rise and hackers are becoming more and more sophisticated, the Interior Ministry and the police in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Germany work together to establish a strong defense against cybercriminals. Authorities in the German state identified the worldwide problem, which causes losses of billions of dollars to governments, companies, and individuals per year.
“This is why we have continued the work with the NRW police in the Cybercrime area,” Interior Minister Ralf Jäger said. “In addition, the organizational structure is streamlined and the highly specialized investigators are becoming more powerful.”
According to the interior minister, the ministry hired 36 IT experts who will strengthen the cyber competence center at the state criminal authority with their expertise and techniques. Jäger added that each of the 16 Crime Centers across the country opens an additional position for IT professionals.
When in 2012, the servers of numerous German online shops were paralyzed by remote-controlled malicious software, the attackers managed to successfully extort money from the victim companies. They demanded payments in bitcoins and threatened with further attacks. The damage caused by these attacks alone was in the double-digit million range.
“For three years, the LKA investigators were tracking down one of the perpetrators on the net, until finally in Ukraine the handcuffs clicked,” the interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia said.
According to the news outlet pymnts.com, the alert level for cyberattacks has been raised to “heightened readiness” in Germany, as the country prepares for parliamentary elections. German media outlets reported that government websites are already targeted by daily hacker attacks, and law enforcement authorities in the country believe that these attacks will significantly increase during the elections. The Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) is working closely with election officials, political parties, and the German Federal States to determine the best way to safeguard the election against cyberattacks. A German newspaper, Welt am Sonntag, reported that the new security measures are implemented since government officials fear that hacker attacks will have an impact on the elections, as it allegedly happened in the United States presidential elections.
“We need laws that allow us to take side scores because of criminal content, which we will get, and we need the manpower to find such content as comprehensively as possible,” declared Jäger. “This applies to right-wing propaganda as well as to Islamic propaganda. Two Islamic scientists will also support the cyber investigation and search center. In this newly created centerpiece of the Competence Center, highly specialized teams are investigating and investigating particularly complex and extensive cases. They are looking for weapons and drugs in the shadow internet, the so-called Darknet, used mainly for criminal purposes.”
North Rhine-Westphalia was the first German state to set up a special unit fighting against cybercrime five years ago. Many other states and the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) have followed this example.
“The new department and the research center underline that the fight against cybercrime still has top priority with the state government,” the minister underlined.
In December, last year, Germany faced a large cyberattack, which targeted Deutsche Telekom, one of the biggest internet, phone, and cable service provider in the country. The impact of the attack resulted in 900,000 victims left without cable, phone, and internet service. Routers across Germany offline for two days, and the company said that it wasn’t a problem with the network; it was identifying routers during the dial-up process. IT analysts found data that suggested the outage was the result of an outside cyber-attack. Later, it became clear that the massive outage was the result of a cyberattack since hackers sold the accounts of Telekom customers on dark web markets.
However, on February 22, 2017, in a joint action between local police, British and Cypriot law enforcement agencies, with help from Europol and Eurojust, investigators arrested a 29-year-old suspect at the Luton airport in London. Authorities claim that the detained man is the hacker known as “BestBuy”, who was responsible for the Deutsche Telekom attack.