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Video Conference Security Compromised: German Call Released

Russian spies are believed to have intercepted a conference call between four senior members of Germany’s air force discussing the war in Ukraine. The call, which took place on Webex, has raised concerns about the security of the platform and the German military’s communication practices.

Leaked audio recording

On March 1, Margarita Simonyan, head of Russian state broadcaster RT, published what she claimed was an audio recording of a 38-minute meeting between German officers, including the chief of the air force, Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz. Germany’s Ministry of Defence MAD intelligence unit is currently investigating how Russia intercepted the conversation.

Sensitive topics discussed

The intercepted conversation included claims that British troops were already ‘on the ground’ in Ukraine, as well as discussions about the effectiveness of Taurus cruise missiles in destroying bridges and ways in which German officers could supply Ukrainians with targeting information without appearing to be directly involved in the conflict with Russia.

Webex Video Conference security features

German government communications using Webex are normally protected through end-to-end encryption from secure endpoints. However, this form of encryption must be switched on separately and does not work if participants dial in by telephone. Webex also offers audio watermarking, which encodes each participant with a unique inaudible identifier to trace leaked recordings back to the source.

Calls for improved security measures

German MP and deputy head of the parliamentary control committee, Roderich Kiesewetter, questioned why such a sensitive topic was discussed on Webex and called for the Federal Office for Information Security to provide appropriate protected information and video conferencing systems.

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A spokeswoman for Germany’s Ministry of Defence told German broadcaster DW: “According to our assessment, a conversation in the air force division was intercepted. We are currently unable to say for certain whether changes were made to the recorded or transcribed version that is circulating on social media.”

The incident has highlighted the importance of secure communication channels for military and government officials, particularly when discussing sensitive topics related to ongoing conflicts.

Safeguarding Video Conference Security

This incident highlights the need for IT and UC managers to insist on video conference security. Demanding integrators and dealers provide end-to-end encryption is a must. You also should make sure the security is easy to turn on, if it’s not “always on.” This can be as simple as a huge red SECURE button or other obvious controls. As the clients, you have the last word on how simple, secure, and effective your UC, video conferencing and AV systems are.


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