Germany has fired cybersecurity chief Arne Schönbohm after his links to a Russian-owned cybersecurity company were brought to prominence by a German comedian. File Photo by Georg Wenzel/EPA-EFE
Oct. 19 (BP) — Germany has fired its cybersecurity chief over suspected ties to a Russian-owned company.
Arne Schönbohm has been relieved of his duties as president of the German Federal Office for Information Security, Der Spiegel reported.
The controversy came to prominence when Schönbohm’s ties to Protelion, a cybersecurity firm previously known as Infotecs, were raised on television by German comedian Jan Böhmermann.
“The Russian company Infotecs, that wants to protect our critical infrastructure from Russian cyber-attacks, works with Russian intelligence services,” said Böhmermann during the television segment.
Protelion was founded as Infotecs in the early 1990s by Andrey Chapchaev, a former KGB engineer who was honored by Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Schönbohm was a founding member of a lobbying group dubbed the Cyber Security Council Germany which lists Protelion as one of its members. Cyber Security Council Germany responded to the television spot by terminating Protelion’s membership while denying any Russian influence.
“Necessary public trust in the neutrality and impartiality of his leadership as president of the most important German cybersecurity agency has been damaged,” said German Interior Ministry spokesperson Nancy Faeser.
Böhmermann did not accuse Schönbohm of maintaining ties to the organization but he reportedly attended Cyber Security Council Germany’s 10th anniversary party in September.
Germany faces growing concern that it could be targeted by Russian cyberattacks as it provides military equipment to Ukraine, including spare parts for Ukrainian Migs, anti-tank weapons and combat vehicles. Last week Germany announced that it would be delivering four IRIS-T anti-air systems, which can be used to defend against drone attacks, to Ukraine.