Germany’s cybersecurity chief has been sacked after a satirical show accused him of having links to Russian intelligence services, an interior ministry spokesman told AFP on Tuesday.
Arne Schönbohm, head of the Federal Cybersecurity Authority (BSI), has been removed from his post “with immediate effect”, the spokesman said.
“Not the least of the background to all of this is the allegations that have come to light and been widely discussed in the media,” he said.
Schönbohm was accused in a ZDF television investigation of contacts with the Russian secret services through an association he co-founded in 2012.
The spokesman said the allegations had “permanently damaged necessary public trust” in Schönbohm as the authority’s head.
“This is all the more true in the current crisis situation regarding Russian hybrid warfare,” he said.
The association at the center of the allegations, known as the Cyber Security Council Germany, advises companies, government agencies and policymakers on cybersecurity issues.
According to the popular ZDF satirical program that broke the story, Schönbohm still maintains contact with the organization.
“All known allegations will be thoroughly and vigorously investigated and subject to detailed assessment,” the spokesperson said, adding that Schönbohm would be “presumed innocent” in the interim.
In recent years, Germany has repeatedly accused Russia of attempted cyber espionage.
The most high-profile incident blamed on Russian hackers to date was a cyberattack in 2015 that crippled the computer network of the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, forcing the entire institution offline for days on end. that it was fixed.
Russia denies being behind such actions.
Tensions between Russia and Germany have only escalated since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The BSI has warned that businesses, individuals and critical infrastructure are at risk of being hit by Russian cyberattacks.