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Germany Admits To Existence of Cyberwarfare Unit

According to a report from Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA), German armed forces confirmed the existence of a cyberwarfare unit in a document presented to parliament earlier this week. The defensive side of the military’s cyber group is well-known, but the notice to parliament marks the first time that the offensive aspect has come to light in an official report.

The report to legislators from Germany’s Defence Ministry outlines the group’s objectives only briefly.

Cyber Warfare

When it comes to the offensive abilities, the document itself was vague, noting only that attack “simulations” in a closed lab as established baselines. “The initial capacity to operate in hostile networks has been achieved,” the DPA reported, quoting from the document presented to lawmakers.  

The Computer Network Operations Unit, which operates out of an unknown location, reports to the joint forces strategic intelligence command, out of Bonn. The unit itself was established in 2006.

Legislators expressed shock at the disclosure from the Defense Ministry, the DPA reported, raising questions as to whether or not the military even possessed the authority to launch attacks against foreign networks – without their prior approval.

The disclosure from the German Defence Ministry comes a week after the world learned that the Obama administration, implementing plans originated during the Bush administration, launched an effective cyber attack against Iran, using the Stuxnet virus.

It also brings to mind Germany’s use of Bundestrojaner, or the Federal Trojan, which several states have used to monitor criminal suspects online.

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Steve Ragan is a security reporter and contributor for SecurityWeek. Prior to joining the journalism world in 2005, he spent 15 years as a freelance IT contractor focused on endpoint security and security training.