This was Germany’s first offensive cyber-operation
A special cyber unit of the Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces) carried out Germany’s first ever offensive cyber-operation by hacking into the network of an Afghan mobile operator to track the location of a group of kidnappers that had taken hostage a young German woman.
The woman, known only as Kaethe B., was working last year in Kabul, Afghanistan, in the offices of the German Association for International Cooperation (GIZ).
An unknown group kidnapped the victim on August 17, 2016, and took her to a remote area of the country, contacting German officials to initiate a negotiation for her return.
Military hackers tracked the kidnapper’s whereabouts, conversations
German newspaper Der Spiegel reports, citing sources inside Bundeswehr, that German authorities asked the Bundeswehr’s Computer Network Operations Unit (CNO) to aid in negotiations.
CNO hacked the network of an Afghan mobile operator in order to discover the kidnappers’ whereabouts and listen in on their conversations to see if they intended to honor their part of the deal and return the German national safe home.
Negotiations went as planned, and the woman returned home exactly two months later, on October 17, 2015, without the intervention of a commando unit that was kept on hold, in case the situation ever deteriorated.
This was Germany’s first “offensive” cyber-operation
According to the German press, this constituted the first offensive cyber-operation in the country’s history, or at least, the first they know of.
International treaties specify very clearly that cyber capabilities should be used only for defensive measures and internal investigations, not offensive operations.
In June, NATO declared cyber an official warfare battleground, alongside sea, land, and air. According to NATO’s own definition, Germany had committed an act of war against the nation of Afghanistan.
Of course, the reasons behind this hack are understandable, and the two countries are not likely to enter an international dispute over this case.
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