German spy chief warns of cyberattacks targeting liquefied natural gas terminals

Bruno Kahl, the head of Germany’s foreign intelligence service, warned that liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals in the country could be targeted by state-sponsored hackers.

As a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year — believed to have cut Germany’s GDP by about 2.5% due to its dependence on gas pipelined from Russia — the country chartered three new LNG terminals, with plans for additional facilities in the future.

But these “new LNG landing facilities should be considered possible targets” for future cyberattacks, warned the spy chief at the Baden-Württemberg Cybersecurity Forum on Friday.

The reputation of Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) has been scuffed in recent months, with one employee recently charged with treason for passing state secrets to Russia.

Kahl himself — a former politician rather than a career intelligence officer — was ridiculed for allegedly failing to see the imminent invasion last year, despite warnings from Germany’s NATO allies. According to reports, German special forces were needed to rescue him from Ukraine.

Kahl told the conference in Stuttgart that Russia and China remained the biggest cyberthreats facing Germany, describing them as “intensively active in cyberspace in order to harm politics, administration, business, research and also society in Germany.”

European officials told Recorded Future News that a spate of ransomware attacks last year impacting two German oil port terminals — among others in Belgium and the Netherlands — were described as “not coordinated” and unlinked to state-sponsored activity.

Alongside the threat posed by Russia and China, Kahl warned that smaller states were also effective actors in cyberspace.

“In the digital world, it is not primarily the size and the mass, but above all the innovative strength and creativity when it comes to achieving the greatest possible impact. Consequently, even states that have limited means for conventional armament are investing specifically in their cyber capabilities in order to achieve virtual gains,” he said.

North Korea, Vietnam and especially Iran were described as countries where hacking organizations sponsored and supported by the intelligence services were particularly active.

Earlier this year, Germany’s domestic intelligence service warned that Iranian dissident organizations and individuals in the country were being targeted by a hacking group that has elsewhere been described as supported by the Iranian regime.

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Alexander Martin

Alexander Martin is the UK Editor for Recorded Future News. He was previously a technology reporter for Sky News and is also a fellow at the European Cyber Conflict Research Initiative.