Germany announces new cyber security unit in wake of terror attacks

By on 12/08/2016 | Updated on 04/02/2022

The German government has announced the creation of a new cyber security unit which will be established early next year and staffed by around 400 civil servants.

The move is part of a list of measures to boost security in response to recent terror attacks that raised deep concerns about Germany’s vulnerability to Islamist violence.

Announcing the steps yesterday, federal interior minister Thomas de Maizière said the new unit – the Central Office for Information in Security Sphere – or ‘Zentrale Stelle für Informationstechnik im Sicherheitsbereich (ZITiS), will support security forces by developing “methods, products and strategies to fight criminality and terrorism on the internet”.

ZITiS will include investigators specialising in trawling the so-called “darknet” for illegal weapons trading and terrorist communication, de Maizière said, calling for a “technology offensive.”

Other measures include a plan to strip Germans with dual nationality of their German citizenship if they fight for militant Islamist groups abroad under new anti-terror proposals and to make “promoting terrorism” a criminal offence.

De Maiziere also announced plans to speed up the deportation of foreign criminals, as well as an extra €2bn funding for the federal police between 2015 and 2020, plus extra personnel, equipment and surveillance powers for the police.

He had also been widely expected to announce plans to loosen doctor patient confidentiality.

In three major cases the perpetrators were found to have been mentally unstable: The Ansbach bomber who killed himself and wounded 15 others at a music festival last month; the gunman who killed nine people in a Munich shopping mall – also last month; and the Germanwings pilot who deliberately crashed an airliner in the French Alps in 2015.

The duty of doctors to respect patient confidentiality is enshrined in the German constitution, and German privacy laws are very strict.

But de Maiziere said he would meet senior doctors to discuss how they could more easily tip off police when they suspected a patient was a terror risk.

About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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