German police seize Pirate Party servers

Investigation is thought to involve Anonymous hacker group

Police in Germany have confiscated servers belonging to the Pirate Party as part of a criminal investigation.

On Friday morning, at the request of the French authorities, German police officers seized a number of Pirate Party servers in Hesse Offenbach. The move led to widespread disruption of the part's IT infrastructure as several websites and a communication platform for members were shut down.

A spokesman for the party said that neither the party itself nor any of its subsidiaries is under investigation and the party is distancing itself from any criminal wrongdoing. Early indications are that police are investigating the PiratenPad facility made available on one of the servers, according to the Pirate Party and the Etherpad Foundation. PiratenPad is a Web application that uses Etherpad software to allow users to freely contribute to and edit documents.

The party board said it would do everything legally required to comply with the investigation, but questioned whether the action taken by police had been proportionate and necessary.

"According to the information the board has been given, only a single public service on a virtual server of the party was affected. The disconnection of all servers is a massive intrusion," said a statement from the party.

The Etherpad Foundation also expressed its concern over the seizure. "We believe the police’s main reason for the raid is because PiratenPad was being used by the group 'Anonymous' to organize an attack," said the foundation. "The main cause for concern is that all Etherpad deployments are used by various groups completely openly, so we can assume that all German Etherpad deployments are now at potential risk of being impounded by the police."

The Anonymous hacker group comprises online activists who gained notoriety for attacks on, among other organizations, Scientology and Paypal. The attack on Paypal was attributed to the online payment system's block of donations to Wikileaks. Investigators are now examining Piratenpad for suspicious activity or references to the group. According to unverified speculation on Twitter, the group wanted to cripple a French energy company.

On Sunday the German Pirate Party will contest the state elections in Bremen and according to polls, is expected to achieve it best election result to date. The board said the server seizure has caused "severe political damage," which it condemned.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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