Cyberwar: Germany wants to hack back
The federal government has dangerous plans for the digital war: attack. Police and intelligence agencies are to penetrate into foreign computers and manipulate data.
The small office is sober, almost bare. It is located on the third floor of the Federal Ministry of the Interior and there is only a desk that can be raised so that it can be worked while standing, a small conference table and a vault in the corner. On the otherwise white walls hangs a single picture, a landscape in oil. Behind the desk, the painting with the greens in his back, stands Andreas Könen and plans the cyberwar, the digital war.
Könen is a mathematician. Formerly he was in the protection of the constitution, then he went to the Federal Office for Security in Information Technology and brought it there to the Vice President. Now headed in the Ministry of Interior the Department CI. The acronym stands for cyber and information security. Könen is the federal government's digital strategist. A friendly, quiet man who talks fast and is concerned about how Germany will protect its infrastructure against attacks in the future - and how it leads to war on the Internet. When it comes to Könen, then the time is over, in which the country only defends itself and strengthens the firewalls around its computers. He wants German services and authorities to be able to attack in the future.
In two draft laws, the Federal Government has accommodated unnoticed by the public already appropriate Paragrafen, a third law is in progress. None of the three is yet to be adopted and in force, but the direction is clear: Bundeswehr, intelligence services and police should be allowed to backfire in the net in the future. Corresponding departments are already being set up.
More harm than good
Hackback is the buzzword, English for " hack back". Könen prefers to call it "active cyber defense" - probably because it sounds better. But the plans he and his department at the Home Office have been working on for years are actually attack scenarios. German authorities should be allowed to invade foreign computers at home and abroad, spy on them, manipulate them, switch them off and delete data on them.
These are dangerous plans. For Germany and for security on the Internet. They could do more harm than good.
Anyone attempting such hacks should expect that they could become a digital melee with incalculable risks, says Matthias Schulze. The scientist investigates Cyberattacks at the Security Policy Research Group of the Science and Politics Foundation (SWP). "At the latest, when manipulating scripts or deleting data, the adversary will note that you are in your system and will counterattack." Such a fight could escalate faster than the federal government would like, says Schulze. "So we also need an escalation strategy, because how do we want to prevent such a hack up to a real war high?"
This is no longer a purely theoretical scenario. The US and Iran are currently showing that. For the Pentagon, cyber attacks have long been part of the armed struggle, such as cruise missile attacks or bombers. The so-called Cyber Command has been one of the US's ten combat commandos since May of this year. In response to Iranian troops launching a US surveillance drone, American cyber warriors have reportedly paralyzed Iranian missile missile systems. US President Donald Trump defended this as a mild measure. But what happens when Iranian hackers attack the computer of American rocket troops?