'Work went on, of course': Why the German parliament took itself offline for three days

Following a significant hack attack, the Bundestag's IT systems went dark for an upgrade.

After last week's debate on the Greek bailout, members of the German parliament were unable to read their email, or access the Bundestag's internal servers, for three and a half days. The outage, however, was intentional: a Bundestag spokesperson told ZDNet that the computers were taken offline to install new hardware and software to protect against cyber-attacks like the one that happened earlier this year.

In May, it was discovered that the Bundestag's computers had been hacked on a large scale --and it's still unclear who was responsible or what information was stolen.

Read this:

​Denmark throws down $75m to build up offensive cybersecurity capabilities

Denmark becomes the latest country to bestow its intelligence services with the power to launch offensive cyberattacks.

Read More

Lars Klingbeil, an MP from the social democratic party (SPD), supported the effort to improve the Bundestag's computer systems.

"We must make sure that the confidentiality of our communications is protected," said Klingbeil who also sits on the parliament's Digital Agenda committee. "The hack attack has shown that the level of security has to be increased. The challenge now is to build an independent high-security network for the Bundestag."

The outage was scheduled for the parliament's summer recess in order to avoid interfering with regular business. However, the computers had to be kept online for the special session to debate the Greek aid package, but on August 20, the day after the vote, systems went down.

Klingbeil said it was somewhat difficult not to have the official computers because his office usually handles a lot of communication by email. "But that is only part of my work," he said. "Even without access to our official emails, work went on, of course."

Bundestag officials were tight-lipped about the technical details of the upgrade that required such a long outage because they did not want to give potential hackers any clues about the new security measures.

The Bundestag has worked with six IT support companies in the past five years --T-Systems, IT Company, Hönigsberg & Düvel Datentechnik, Fujitsu Technology Solutions, Paul IT Service, and CANCOM online.

Read more on security