Germany’s government has stood down the president of its Federal Office for Information Security, Arne Schönbohm, over his links to Russia.
Schönbohm’s woes erupted last week when late-night chat show ZDF Magazine Royale branded him a “Cyberclown” in a Twitter thread that detailed some of the wurst moments of his career:
Was das BMI zu Arne Schönbohm wusste. Ein Thread (1/12) #cyberclown
— ZDF Magazin Royale (@zdfmagazin) October 10, 2022
Among the matters raised in the thread were Schönbohm’s founding of a lobby group called Cyber Security Council Germany. The group admitted a member company called Protelion, which claimed to be German but was in fact founded by a former KGB officer who has been honored for services to Russia by Vladimir Putin.
Industry associations dependent on member contributions can in theory be swayed by those who make the most generous, or vocal, contributions. That opportunity has not gone unnoticed by intelligence agencies as they look to detect and deflect influence operations – or sometimes run them by creating flimsy lobby groups.
Schönbohm is not accused of any wrongdoing at the Cyber Security Council, but his judgement has been called into question as it’s not a good look to have been in a position to assist a Russian infosec outfit.
Germany is also right now very sensitive to Moscow’s many needling tactics. The Euro nation is preparing to shiver through a winter with heaters turned down to ameliorate high energy prices caused by Russia’s restriction of gas exports — part of its retaliation to Western support for Ukraine’s resistance to Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion.
Germany’s Interior Ministry will investigate Schönbohm’s history and conduct, and it is theoretically possible he’ll be restored to his post atop the agency charged with promoting cyber security across Germany. Government officials have set assurance that Schönbohm can win the trust of the German people as the standard for his return to the job. ®