German parliament clears out Trojans, guts IT system

The German Bundestag is to wipe and reinstall much of its IT system to clear it of Trojans - but the move is less drastic than the entire system replacement suggested in earlier reports.

Norbert Lammert, the speaker of Germany's parliament, confirmed yesterday that much of its parliament information technology system will need to be wiped and reinstalled after being infiltrated by Trojan malware.

The government had been unable to erase the malware which local press reported was still sending data to an unknown destination, a claim denied by Lammert, who said no data appeared to have been exfiltrated from Parliament's IT system in the past two weeks.

In May, Bundestag officials confirmed that their computer system had been hacked, with malware sitting on computers for months, or years, causing the Bundestag system to operate painfully slow. The hackers continued to have access to the whole system and subsequently gained administrative rights. While no attribution has been made, unofficial sources suggested the attacker is most likely Russia (pro-Russian hackers in Ukraine attacked the Bundestag and German Chancellery in January), and certainly a nation state.

Reuters reported the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) as saying the current Bundestag computer system is beyond fixing and it had recommended the replacement of all 20,000 Bundestag computers at a cost millions of Euros, causing a summer shutdown, but Lammert refuted the idea that computers needed to be replaced.

Prior to yesterday's meeting between Lammert and legislators, Berliner Zeitung reported that even MPs were being kept in the dark about what's happening, quoting Lars Klingbeil, the Social Democratic Party's chairman of the digital agenda parliamentary committee saying: "There is hardly information available to parliamentarians, and people are pretty uncertain. We put it on the agenda twice in committee, and no-one came from the administration of the Bundestag with any kind of report."

The Social Democrats are the junior coalition partner in the German government with Chancellor Angela Merkel's union of Christian conservative parties. Some members of parliament were said to be concerned about or even refusing help from the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (the domestic intelligence service), and especially the Bundesnachrichtendienst (the foreign intelligence service) to avoid giving them access to the legislative process.

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