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Germany’s cyber security chief sacked due to ‘Russia ties’

Germany’s cyber security chief has been fired after allegations of being “excessively close to Russia” via an association he assisted with setting up.

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Thu, 20 Oct 2022
Germany’s cyber security chief sacked due to ‘Russia ties’
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Since 2016, Arne Schönbohm has been tasked with protecting government communications by leading the Federal Cyber Security Authority (BSI).

According to reporting by the BBC, German media has accused him of having had links with individuals involved with Russian intelligence services.

The allegations made against him are now being investigated by the Interior Ministry but has confirmed Schönbohm had been fired effective immediately.


Schönbohm had come under scrutiny after his potential links to a Russian company through a previous role were highlighted by Jan Böhmermann, the host of one of Germany’s most popular late night TV shows.

Before leading the BSI, Schönbohm had helped set up and run the Cyber Security Council Germany, a private association which advises business and policymakers on cyber security issues.

Schönbohm has reportedly maintained close ties to the association and attended their 10th anniversary celebrations in September. One of the association’s members was a cyber security company called Protelion, which was a subsidiary of a Russian firm reportedly established by a former member of the KGB honoured by President Vladimir Putin.

Last week, Protelion was ejected from the association and according to Cyber Security Council Germany the allegations of links to Russian intelligence are untrue.

Nancy Faeser, Germany’s Interior Minister, appeared to confirm that Schönbohm’s sacking was in response to the recent reports.

“Necessary public trust in the neutrality and impartiality of his leadership as president of the most important German cyber security agency has been damaged.

The background to this is not least the allegations revealed and widely discussed in the media,” Faeser said.

The security chief would be presumed innocent”, the Interior Minister has asserted, while an investigation into the allegations was conducted.

German media outlet Der Spiegel had reported that Schönbohm had requested formal disciplinary proceedings to be opened against him, after receiving no feedback from the government after the initial accusations.

Schönbohm did not yet know what the ministry has examined and what the concrete allegations against me look like.

Berlin is reportedly increasingly concerned that its critical infrastructure could be targeted by Russian intelligence as it steps up its support for Ukraine.

[Related: Westpac opens new scam prevention centre and financial crime hub]

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