Evidence of a concerted attack on German federal IT contractors

Evidence of a concerted attack on German federal IT contractors

Three contractors providing services to German federal ministries have been targeted in attacks by hackers over the past few months. In each case, it’s highly likely that the attackers got their hands on large volumes of the respective organization’s email communication, which could be used as a springboard for more targeted attacks.

As reported by the Bavarian public broadcaster, Bayerische Rundfunk, the attacks on two companies based in Dortmund, Adesso and Materna, had already made headlines in Germany. Now an attack on a third company, Berlin-based Init, has come to light. An industry expert presumes that there is a link between the three cyber attacks, and that they may well have been carried out by state-sponsored protagonists.

The Federal Information Technology Center (ITZ Bund) has issued an alert that the stolen emails contained personal data, telephone numbers and location of employment as well as details regarding current projects, email threads and attached documents. This information could be abused to launch highly-specific social engineering attacks, enabling attackers to build a false sense of trust. In this way, they can gain access to even more sensitive data or infiltrate networks.

“There are indications that these attacks may already be underway,” according to the ITZ alert seen by the BR. The German Federal Ministry of the Interior, meanwhile, has sought to downplay the issue, declaring that there is no immediate threat to the IT security of the federal administration. The Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) is taking the same line.

The ITZ has already been subject to a recent attack itself, the report goes on to say. In mid-February this year “various clients” of the ITZ service were targeted in a DDoS attack, including the Federal Intelligence Agency, several federal ministries, the Federal Tax Office and the BSI. The huge amount of requests inundating the organizations originated from a non-EU country.

The theft of emails from critical contractors to the federal government once again highlights how essential it has become to safeguard the email communication channel. Find out what the Retarus Secure Email Platform can do to support companies and government agencies in this regard from our website or directly from your local Retarus contact.


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