Almost all German companies have been the victims of a cyberattack in the past year. In a study by the IT industry association Bitkom, nine out of ten companies surveyed said they had been attacked. This means that the Internet threat has finally reached the German economy. Bitkom conducts the survey every two years. As recently as 2017, only 50% of those surveyed considered themselves affected by cyber attacks.
Ransomware attacks have caused the most damage. Well-organized criminal gangs encrypt important company data in order to demand ransom for release. Such attacks are particularly costly because they generally lead to prolonged production stoppages. Even if a ransom is paid, the whole system often needs to be put back in place to avoid another infestation.
Double the damage in two years
But other forms of cyber incidents would also have caused significant damage. Many companies have reported that they have lost sales due to intellectual property theft. In total, the study covers an amount of damage of around 220 billion euros. This is more than double than in the last such survey in 2019, when the total was around 100 million euros.
German entrepreneurs most concerned about ransomware attacks, followed closely by attacks with zero-day security vulnerabilities, i.e. vulnerabilities against which there is no defense (yet) because they are known only to hackers and not to manufacturers. Businesses are also concerned about attacks with spyware and quantum computers. However, their development is still in its early stages.
For most businesses, quantum computers are more of an unrealistic threat scenario, says Hauke Gierow of Bochum’s IT security firm G-Data. Instead, it is mainly the basic errors that make businesses vulnerable: poorly protected remote maintenance systems, bad passwords, a lack of network segmentation to make it harder for attackers to spread across the world. system and insufficient preparation for emergencies, such as employee training. .
Risk to human security
Because in many attacks, hackers do not rely on sophisticated zero-day vulnerabilities to break into the system. Instead, they convince company employees by manipulating emails (phishing) or providing false information over the phone to reveal passwords to them and, so to speak, voluntarily let them enter the system. : experts call this procedure social engineering.
According to companies, working conditions during the corona pandemic also had a negative impact on IT security. Over 50% of businesses said there was at least one computer security incident that could be attributed to working at the home office.
However, some figures in the study should be treated with caution. They often reflect the feelings of the managers interviewed in the companies more than concrete facts. 40% of those surveyed believe that the cyber attacks against them were carried out by hackers.
In addition, some important attack types do not appear at all. In a similar study in 2020, the US FBI came to the conclusion that so-called Commercial Email Compromises (BECs) – the fake emails with which hackers log into processes billing, cause the greatest economic damage. Even in Germany, unsuspecting employees regularly transfer large sums to the accounts of fraudsters. In the Bitkom study, on the other hand, this scenario does not even occur.