Last week, public figures in Germany experienced the “biggest data dump” in the country’s history. Following a remarkably swift investigation, authorities say they have obtained a confession from the person responsible. Quieting fears that the doxxing attack against hundreds of politicians was state-sponsored, it appears the culprit is a 20-year-old high school student.
On Tuesday, German law enforcement officials told reporters that they took the unidentified suspect into custody on Sunday and released him after obtaining a confession. According to the New York Times:
“In the course of the interrogation, the suspect confessed to acting alone in spying and illegally publishing the data,” Mr. Ungefuk said. “Regarding his motivation, the suspect said that he was angry with the public statements of the targeted politicians, journalists and public personalities.”
Officers searched the home of the man, a student who lives with his parents in the central state of Hesse, on Sunday, Mr. Ungefuk said.
Last week, the public first became widely aware of a month-long effort by an anonymous person to disseminate an enormous amount of stolen personal information from artists, media figures, and politicians. Information from victims included email addresses, documents, private correspondence, credit card information, passwords, family information, and photocopies of personal ID cards. The perpetrator began by leaking minor media personalities’ data with links on Twitter but soon pivoted to sharing stolen data from virtually every member of German Parliament and even Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The only party in Parliament that was not targeted by the leaker was the right-wing, anti-immigrant party known as Alternative for Germany, or AfD. This led to speculation that the leaks were politically motivated and possibly carried out by a foreign intelligence service. We still have very few details on what exactly happened and why, but authorities seem to be confident the leaker was simply operating on his own and attacking people he disagreed with. According to the Wall Street Journal, the man lives with his parents in the German state of Hesse and it’s not uncommon for Germans to still be in high school when they turn 20.
Officials did not elaborate on how the leaked data was gathered by the suspect, but they said he was a self-taught hacker with no formal IT training. According to Bloomberg, the suspect also provided information related to other crimes.
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told reporters that the ministry hopes to draft new privacy legislation in response to the data dump. He said that there are plans to implement an early-warning system that would somehow stop the spread of stolen information as well as a labeling system that would give consumers a heads up about the relative security of online devices and storage. But Germany’s Justice Minister, Katarina Barley, told the Times that officials are only “examining whether tightening the laws would make sense or be necessary.”