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Server failure knocks out German parliaments IT system for hours

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BERLIN — Large parts of the Bundestags IT network were brought down by a server failure this week, raising concerns about the German parliaments digital infrastructure.

“This incident happened because of an outdated component of the software used by the Bundestag,” a high-ranking official briefed on the details of the incident said.

“The software component is 12 years old,” the official added. “It comes as no surprise to me that it produces difficulties like this.”

When parliament staffers arrived for work Monday morning, they found themselves unable to use the intranet, send or receive emails, or use several web applications, more than half a dozen people who work in the building told POLITICO. They were unable to work for several hours.

“Essentially, everything you need to run an MPs office was down,” one official said.

The piece of software that caused the problem has been in use since 2006, and is scheduled to be replaced this year, the senior official briefed on the incident said.

The Bundestags administration refused to comment.

Internal emails from the parliaments IT department and seen by POLITICO suggest the downtime was caused by a technical fault rather than hacking, and it was fixed by rebooting the system.

It isnt the first IT problem the German parliament has faced.

In 2015, intruders were able to freely use the Bundestag system for three weeks, spying on communication between lawmakers and their staff, and eventually making off with a large trove of information.

Since then, several other German government departments have been the target of hacking attacks.

Although Bundestag officials say the network is more secure than it was in 2015, a member of parliament said Mondays computer failure was “unsettling,” with senior lawmakers complaining about being kept in the dark by the parliaments IT team for almost 36 hours, and about information only being provided once they asked for it.

“Theres still room for massive improvement when it comes to the way the Bundestag shares information,” said Konstantin von Notz, the digital affairs spokesperson for the opposition Green Party and a member of a parliamentary oversight panel in charge of IT security.

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