German cyber agency denies increase in infrastructure hacks

The number of cyberattacks on vital public utilities is on the increase, a newspaper reported. Germany's cyberdefense agency has denied the report, saying it only recorded an increase in the number of disruptions.

Germany's cyberdefense agency has denied that it recorded a significant rise in the number of cyberattacks on critical infrastructure, according to public broadcaster ARD.

Germany's Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) reportedly said it had noticed an increase in the number of cybersecurity incidents affecting vital utilities in 2018, but that it could not say how many were due to cyberattacks.

Read more: Germany struggles to step up cyberdefense

Earlier, the Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported that the BSI had attributed the increase in disruptions to cyberattacks.

Nearly 160 disruptions, not attacks

In the last six months of 2018, according to the figures seen by Welt am Sonntag, the BSI recorded 157 attacks on utilities and infrastructure — 19 of which were against the electricity network. It was a considerable increase on 2017, in which there were some 145 attacks for the whole year.

While past hacking efforts have been more about spying, the newspaper reported, an increasing proportion were now aimed at sabotaging infrastructure such as electricity, water and communications.

Why it seems like everyone's being hacked

CCTV surveillance cameras hacked in DC

Two people were arrested in Britain on Saturday after allegedly attempting to hack the Washington DC CCTV surveillance camera system just days before President Donald Trump's inauguration. US media said 123 out of almost 200 cameras throughout the city were disabled by ransomware software. Officials feared a bigger attack may have been planned for the day of Trump's swearing in.

Why it seems like everyone's being hacked

Fears over Dutch election hack

The Netherlands said it will count ballots from its election on March 15 by hand after fears its vote counting software is vulnerable to hacking. Several Dutch ministries and even the prime minister's office have been targeted by Russian and other hackers. The rise of anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders (pictured) has piled pressure on mainstream parties in the upcoming vote.

Why it seems like everyone's being hacked

Norway's state institutions targeted

Norway said Russian-based hackers have attempted to break into email accounts linked to the domestic intelligence agency. None of the accounts, used by the Foreign Ministry, the military, a university, the nuclear watchdog and the opposition Labour party, were used for classified information. A probe has begun into whether the group known as APT29 - also known as Cozy Bear - was responsible.

Why it seems like everyone's being hacked

Anti-Trump song forced onto US radio stations

Several US radio stations in South Carolina, Indiana, Texas, Tennessee, and Kentucky have been hacked by anti-Trump activists, the Verge reported. Instead of the stations' usual music format, an unstoppable audio loop of YG and Nipsey Hussle’s hip hop track "F**k Donald Trump" played out. It apparently took the stations several hours to fix the problem.

Why it seems like everyone's being hacked

Czech minister's emails intercepted

The Czech Republic's foreign minister has confirmed that his own email account - and those of colleagues in the Foreign Ministry - have been hacked. TheNeovlivni.cz news site reported "thousands of files" were retrieved, but the Foreign Ministry has denied classified information was obtained. Russia has not been blamed publicly, but, privately, officials are pointing the finger at the Kremlin.

Why it seems like everyone's being hacked

Hotel targeted by ransomware hackers

An Austrian luxury hotel is to replace its electronic room cards with old fashioned keys after blackmail-hungry hackers gained access to its locking system. The Romantik Seehotel Jaegerwirt in the Austrian Alps says it's been repeatedly targeted. In one incident, the owners had to pay 1,500 euros to ransom software hackers to get the room cards working again.

Why it seems like everyone's being hacked

Becks' email breach?

David Beckham has blamed a hacked email account after British media alleged he sent a string of foul-mouthed private emails over his failure to be named Sir David by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. The Football Leaks website claims the soccer star was frustrated that he wasn't given a knighthood and dismissed a lesser award known as the Order of the British Empire (OBE).

"Security authorities are concerned," Welt am Sonntag noted. "There has been a noticeable increase in the number and caliber of attacks, with the aim of shutting off power and water supplies."

Security authorities were reported to believe that the number of attacks involving foreign intelligence agencies was on the rise.

Read more: Six hack attacks that shook the world

Authorities believe the actual number of attacks could be far higher than the number reported, the newspaper said. Many attacks on mid-sized infrastructure targets — such as electricity distribution systems and municipal utilities — were thought to go unreported.

Related Subjects

Operators of utilities such as gas and electricity providers and sewage works are obliged to report such attacks in Germany. Facilities such as hospitals and public transport networks, however, are not.

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Nightmare scenario

Sectors covered by the terms of the report include energy, water, health, food, telecommunications, transport, finance and government. However, online attacks that threaten to cripple power plants are seen as the real nightmare scenario.

Last June, German intelligence reported that it believed Russia was behind a widespread cyberattack on German energy providers. It had previously drawn comparisons with an attempted attack on a German power plant and an incursion on a Ukrainian power plant. 

Read more: Russia hack attacks: Revelations from 'spy mania'

Katherina Reiche, managing director of the German Association of Local Utilities, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung that facilities like power plants should be given the level of cybersecurity that currently protects security services.

"A central federal responsibility for cybersecurity is necessary for an early response to cyber threats with streamlined structures and short decision paths," said Reiche in comments published on Sunday. "Municipal providers and electricity grid operators must be involved."

The German government is already planning a new federal agency concerned with cybersecurity, to be based in Halle (Saale) and Leipzig, in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt.

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