Germany’s internet security agency has declined to comment on who is suspected of compromising up to 16 milllion online accounts. Photograph: Kacper Pempel/Reuters
Germany‘s internet security agency has said an analysis of hijacked computer networks has revealed that as many as 16 million online accounts have been compromised.
A website offering citizens the chance to check whether their accounts are affected crashed almost immediately after its launch due to overwhelming demand.
The Federal Office for Information Security said it had found out about the security breach after running an analysis of botnets – networks of computers that have been infected by malware.
The compromised accounts have email addresses as their username, but may include other services such as social media or online shopping portals. About half of the accounts have .de endings, denoting that they are based in Germany.
The agency declined to comment on who was suspected of conducting the hacking, or why it had carried out the analysis.
In the context of heightened German awareness about data protection after the Snowden revelations, some speculated that the announcement was a ruse to collect email addresses on behalf of the government.
“I have reservations about handing over my email address to the agency,” said @anadin325 on Twitter. “Smells like federal phishing to me.”
Tim Griese, the agency’s spokesman, said: “There will be no storing of email addresses after they have been tested.”