A German student has taken responsibility for one of the country’s biggest data breaches. According to Reuters, the unidentified 20-year-old accessed and leaked the personal data and documents of about 1,000 people, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as well as other politicians and journalists. Surprisingly, he is not a computer expert.
The student was detained after police searched a property in Hesse on Sunday (Jan. 6), where they recovered a computer that the suspect removed two days before the search, as well as a data backup. Investigators revealed that the student has been released from custody and is cooperating with them.
“The accused admitted to having acted alone in data spying and the unauthorized publication of data,” said the Federal Crime Office (BKA) in a statement. “The investigations have, so far, provided no indication of the participation of a third party.”
While Russian hackers and far-right German activists were initially suspected of carrying out the hack, the suspect said "his motivation had been irritation over public statements made by the politicians, journalists and public figures affected,” according to Senior Prosecutor Georg Ungefuk.
Ungefuk added that the suspect, who faces a maximum of six years in prison, was repentant and didn't realize the full consequences of his actions. The student has been assisting the police on other cybercrime investigations.
The breach has resulted in a cry for tighter cybersecurity regulations. As a result, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said the government is already making plans to boost security, including the creation of an early warning system.
Yet, Sabine Vogt, who heads the federal police division for serious and organized crime, said individuals ultimately had to take responsibility for making sure their data was safe.
“We don’t want a surveillance state based on the fact that something like this can happen here,” she said.