Spy Chief Says Germany Needs Ability to Counter Cyberattacks

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HAMBURG, GERMANY - JANUARY 06: Dr. Hans-Georg Maassen, President of the Federal Office for Protection of the Constitution (BfV), attends the reception for the 70th anniversary of 'DER SPIEGEL' at the town hall on January 6, 2017 in Hamburg, Germany. DER SPIEGEL is one of continental Europe's most influential news magazines, founded in 1947. Known mainly for its investigative journalism, it has played a key role in uncovering many political scandals. (Photo by Markus Hibbeler/Getty Images)

BERLIN — The head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency says the country needs to be able to return fire during a cyberattack, including the ability to disable equipment that’s being used to target Germany.

Hans-Georg Maassen told German news agency dpa in an interview published Tuesday that it’s necessary “for us not just to be purely defensive.”

Maassen, who heads the BfV agency, said Germany “needs to be able to attack the enemy in order to stop him from attacking us further.”

The BfV is responsible for counter-espionage and doesn’t operate outside Germany, so acquiring offensive electronic warfare capabilities would mark a departure for the agency.

Maassen’s boss, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, recently proposed an overhaul of Germany’s security apparatus in response to the threat of terrorism and state-sponsored hacking.