German Cyber-Security Watchdog Confirms Country’s First ‘Cyber-Catastrophe’

A district council in eastern Germany has declared a disaster after its computer systems were paralyzed by a hacker attack in what the federal cyber-security watchdog confirmed was the country’s first-ever “cyber-catastrophe.”

Hackers knocked out the IT operations of the municipality of Anhalt-Bitterfeld, in the state of Saxony-Anhalt, on Tuesday, a spokesperson confirmed to Reuters on Saturday.

“We are almost completely paralyzed,” the spokesperson said, adding its offices would probably remain offline next week and giving no indication of when services would resume.

The municipality declined comment on the identity of the attacker or whether they had made a ransom demand, citing a police investigation. Security sources say German local governments often run outdated and poorly maintained software systems that could be wide open to cyber attack.

The rural district of Anhalt-Bitterfeld, with a population of 157,000, is for the time being unable to pay out welfare benefits. Its consequent catastrophe declaration is a formal step that allows it to call for federal help.

The cyber attack is the latest in a series of incidents targeting public infrastructure, including the recent takedown of the U.S. Colonial Pipeline, while extortionists have also targeted widely used IT applications with ransomware attacks.

Germany’s BSI cyber-security agency said it had sent a crisis team to Anhalt-Bitterfeld. A spokesperson said that, although other local authorities had been the victim of cyberattacks, none had declared a catastrophe as a result.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke; writing by Douglas Busvine; editing by David Holmes)



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