BERLIN — German authorities confirmed Tuesday in a parliamentary document that their military possesses a top secret cyberwarfare unit which is already operational, but gave no details of how big it is or what kind of attacks it could conduct.
The German armed forces have been working for 20 years to defend the country's computer networks from external attack, but have never disclosed before that they have an offensive capacity as well.
The existence of the unit, set up in 2006, was disclosed in a six-page paper presented to the parliamentary committee on defence in Berlin.
"The initial capacity to operate in hostile networks has been achieved," the paper said, adding that the unit did "simulations" of attacks in a "closed laboratory environment."
The location and size of the Computer Network Operations Unit was not disclosed. It reports to the joint forces strategic intelligence command, based in the western city of Bonn, officials said.
Legislators from both the government and opposition voiced surprise at the disclosure. Several questioned whether military commanders had the legal authority to mount attacks on foreign computer networks without parliamentary clearance.