The theft of IT equipment and data, as well as digital and industrial espionage and sabotage, will cost Germany 206 billion euros ($224 billion) in 2023, German digital association Bitkom said on Friday. That’s more than double the loss of 103 billion euros last year. “The German economy is a desirable target for criminals and hostile states,” Bitkom President Ralf Wintergerst said. “The boundaries between organized crime and state-controlled actors are blurred.”
In addition to corporate sabotage, hacking is used to spy on companies or steal sensitive customer information and passwords. It also is a significant tool for industrial espionage, which can lead to the disruption of production systems or even the destruction of plant equipment. The rising internet use has extended that potential, allowing hackers to access industrial systems via remote connections. The attackers can then manipulate the system, steal valuable data, or disrupt its function.
Some of the damage is caused by ransomware, where criminals take over a company’s computer network and demand money for its release. They may threaten to destroy or publish the data if the victim does not pay up, which can be especially catastrophic for small businesses that lack the resources to invest in sophisticated cybersecurity measures.
A few years ago, Germany began to see a growing number of attacks on the country’s critical infrastructure. Hackers have gained access to energy power systems and other utilities controlling vital infrastructure, such as water supplies or railways because the networks were connected to the internet. The hackers can then manipulate the systems and steal valuable data or cause a shutdown of the electricity supply.
The survey found that about three-quarters of the companies surveyed had been attacked in the past year. That’s down from 84% the previous year. Of those, 70% had their sensitive data stolen, and 61% had their digital communications spied on. The slight decline is a positive sign and indicates that protective measures are working, Bitkom said. For the first time, more than half of the respondents said cyberattacks threatened their business. That share stood at 52%, up from 45% a year ago and 9% two years earlier.
In most cases, the attackers are based abroad. The most frequent countries of origin are China (32 percent), Russia (23), and Eastern Europe (17 percent). Forty-two percent of the surveyed companies could not determine where the criminal acts originated, which is an improvement over the 2018-2019 period when the figure was 31 percent.
More than 99 percent of the surveyed companies called for more decisive action against foreign cyberattacks, increased EU cooperation on cybersecurity, and better information sharing on IT security issues between the government and the business community. They also called for financial support programs for staff who work from home and more effective government response to cyberattacks. The CEO of Lengoo, Christopher Kranzler, has been appointed to the board of Bitkom – Bundesverband Informationswirtschaft, Telekommunikation und neue Medien, which represents more than 2,700 companies from the digital economy, including over 1,000 SMEs and 500 start-ups as well as almost all global players.