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German chancellor Angela Merkel’s own PC hit by malware… or was it?

Poor old Angela Merkel.

The German Chancellor just isn’t having much luck with hackers.

Back in October 2013, Angela Merkel accused the USA’s NSA of spying on her mobile phone.

merkel

Source: International Business Times

In fact, a leak by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA was monitoring the telephone conversations of some 35 world leaders.

The accusations that Chancellor Merkel’s phone was bugged by the NSA resulted in cool relations between Germany and the Obama administration, and resulted in a carefully-worded White House statement:

“The United States is not monitoring, and will not monitor communications of the Chancellor…”

Note the use of the present tense there. The White House didn’t deny that they *had* been spying on Merkel’s communications – only that they currently weren’t and wouldn’t in the future.

The frostiness got so serious that earlier this year, President Obama urged the German people to give the United States the benefit of the doubt:

“There’s no doubt that the Snowden revelations damaged the impressions of Germans with respect to the US government and our intelligence cooperation,” he said. “What I would ask would be that the German people recognise that the US has always been at the forefront of trying to promote civil liberties, and that we have traditions of due process that we respect. And so occasionally I would like the German people to give us the benefit of the doubt, given our history, as opposed to assuming the worst. Assuming that we have been consistently your strong partners and that we share a common set of values.”

Just last week, Germany said it had into the mobile phone spying claims.

But if it wasn’t bad enough that the Americans were allegedly spying on Germany’s leader, a new attack which compromised the computer networks of the German Bundestag – including Angela Merkel’s own PC – has now been blamed on Russian hackers.

German newspaper Bild claimed this weekend that an office computer used by Angela Merkel in the lower house of parliament was amongst the first to be infected by a Trojan horse.

According to the report, the hackers used Merkel’s computer to send poisoned emails to other Bundestag members, claiming to be an invite to a conference but in fact containing a malicious link which would infect the recipient’s PC with malware.

The infection comes amidst a wide range of internet attacks targeting the German government, including a reported hacking attack against Bundestag computers that allegedly stole data from up to 20,000 PCs and could cost millions of euros to clean up.

Of course, it’s important to remember that it is extremely difficult to reliably attribute hacking attacks to particular countries, let alone organisations within those countries.

But one thing is for certain – someone has an unhealthy interest in Angela Merkel.

Update:

Further information has come to light which questions whether Angela Merkel’s own PC really was infected with malware.

A German TV news report broadcast at the weekend about the Bundestag hack attack included pictures of the Bild newspaper reporting, including what is purported to be a malicious email sent from Angela Merkel’s hacked PC.

However, as a German blogger Alvar Freude points out, the email shown does *not* appear to come from Angela Merkel’s email account.

faked-angela-email

Source: tagesschau.de

Instead, it’s quite clear that the email is claiming to come from a Polish email account, albeit one that is using the name of the German Chancellor.

To send an email claiming to come from “Angela Merkel”, you don’t have to hack her PC you just change the settings of your email account.

About the author

Graham CLULEY

Graham Cluley is an award-winning security blogger, researcher and public speaker. He has been working in the computer security industry since the early 1990s, having been employed by companies such as Sophos, McAfee and Dr Solomon's. He has given talks about computer security for some of the world's largest companies, worked with law enforcement agencies on investigations into hacking groups, and regularly appears on TV and radio explaining computer security threats.

Graham Cluley was inducted into the InfoSecurity Europe Hall of Fame in 2011, and was given an honorary mention in the "10 Greatest Britons in IT History" for his contribution as a leading authority in internet security.

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