German industrial secrets move into focus of global spies | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 23.04.2012
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German industrial secrets move into focus of global spies

Half of all German businesses have had to fend off attacks by internet hackers and industrial spies, a recent survey has found. They cause the loss of invaluable know-how.

A representative study made among 600 German firms has shown that 54.6 percent of them had faced at least one espionage attack in the course of the past four years, German security firm Corporate Trust said Monday.

Corporate Trust, which is based in Munich, carried out the survey in collaboration with TÜV SÜD technical consultancy group and Brainloop data security firm, and it found that German medium sized companies - considered the country's innovative backbone - were most badly affected, enduring 23.5 percent of the attacks.

The country's major corporations experienced 18.5 percent of all espionage attempts, while small companies were the victims of 15.6 percent of the attacks.

"Conservatively estimated, we believe that the financial damage caused by industrial espionage will have reached 4.2 billion euros ($5.52 billion) in each year," Corporate Trust's Chief Executive Christian Schaaf told reporters in Munich.

Compared with the last such study carried out in 2007, industrial espionage in Germany had risen by about 50 percent, Schaaf said, speaking of an "explosion" which was a challenge to control.

Global spying

Schaaf said that the spying experienced by German firms ranged from hacking attacks via the internet to eavesdropping by foreign intelligence services and theft of secrets by organized criminal gangs.

However, the "biggest losses" were caused by "disloyal employees" intentionally passing on classified information, which made up about 58 percent of the overall damage.

China was still the "most active" country regarding industrial spying, the study said, but the countries of the former Soviet Union were rapidly "catching up," and, said Schaaf, the United States was always "best informed, thanks to their worldwide reconnaissance activities."

With the study, Corporate Trust had got a "clear picture" of the type of threat facing companies, said Schaaf.

"While low security is careless, too much of it could stifle competitiveness," he added, highlighting the need for a "balanced counter-strategy."

uhe/mll (dpa, AFP)