News, 20.10.2022, 11:00 AM
The director of Germany’s federal cyber security office, Arne Schönbohm, has been suspended following accusations that he had ties to Russian intelligence services, a spokeswoman for the German Interior Ministry confirmed on Tuesday. Schönbom has been the director of the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) since 2016.
The move came after the host of the satirical TV show ZDF Magazine Royale accused Schönbohm of maintaining indirect contacts with Russian intelligence services through a trade association called the Cyber Security Council of Germany, which he helped found a decade ago.
As reported by the Washington Post, the presenter of the aforementioned show called Schoenbom a “cyber clown” who, leading the largest government agency for cyber security, continued to maintain ties with the Cyber Security Council, one of the founders of which is Protelion, a subsidiary of the Russian cyber security firm Infotecs, which was founded by a former KGB agent, who was honored by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The show said that Schönbohm gave a speech in September at an event organized by the Cyber Security Council of Germany, but as Spiegel reported, Schönbohm had the approval of the Interior Ministry for this engagement. The host of the show joked about this topic saying that Protelion “wants to protect Germany’s critical infrastructure from Russian cyber attacks [ali] working with the Russian intelligence services”.
Germany’s Cyber Security Council expelled Protelion from the organization after the show, but dismissed allegations that it was influenced by Russia as “absurd.” However, several other members publicly left the association after that.
The Federal Minister of the Interior, Nancy Feser, banned Schoenbohm from “performing official duties as president of the BSI”.
The allegations “permanently damaged the public’s necessary trust in the neutrality and impartiality” of Šenbom, the spokeswoman for the Ministry of the Interior said in a statement. “This is even more difficult in the current crisis situation regarding Russian hybrid warfare,” she added. However, she said Schoenbom will be “presumed innocent” until the allegations are “thoroughly and vigorously investigated.”
Schoenbom told Spiegel that he had personally asked the ministry to initiate disciplinary proceedings to clear up the allegations.
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