The German Government has dismissed the nation’s cybersecurity chief over allegations of being “excessively close“ to Russia through an association he co-founded and for having links to Russian intelligence services.
Arne Schoenbohm, who had led the Federal Cyber Security Authority (BSI) since 2016, has been relieved of his duties with immediate effect.
Before heading the BSI, Schonbohm helped to launch the Cyber Security Council Germany, a private association providing online security advice to businesses and policymakers – and has since maintained close ties with the association, recently attending their 10th anniversary celebrations in September.
Protelion, a member of the association until it was ejected last week, is a subsidiary of Infotecs, a Russian company owned by a former member of the KGB who was honoured by President Putin. Cyber Security Council Germany has denied that having Protelion as a member led to any connections between the company and Russian intelligence.
However, Mr Schonbohm came under scrutiny when his potential links to Protelion were discussed on ZDF Magazin Royale, a popular late-night satirical show on German TV.
“The Russian company Infotecs, that wants to protect our critical infrastructure from Russian cyber-attacks, works with Russian intelligence services,” Jan Böhmermann, host of ZDF Magazin Royale, said in his satirical programme. “Russian agents use Infotecs, which under the name Protelion GmbH sells German companies security software,” he underlined
Since the episode of the TV show aired, several companies have cancelled their membership of the Cyber Security Council Germany, including software firm TeamViewer and energy company E.ON.
A spokesperson for Germany’s Interior Ministry confirmed on Tuesday, Oct. 18, that an investigation into the allegations had been launched, and that Schonbohm had been relieved of his duties.
“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 added.
The probe follows a report in German media outlet Der Spiegel earlier this month that Schönbohm had requested formal disciplinary proceedings to be launched against him to investigate the allegations against him in a transparent way, with Schonbohm saying he did not yet know “what the ministry has examined and what the concrete allegations against me look like”.
You can also highlight the text and press Ctrl + Enter