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Top German spook warns about nation state hacking

by on05 September 2018

Targeting private companies to take down a country

A growing number of countries are hacking into private computer networks and installing malicious software to sabotage another country’s infrastructure.

The president of the Germany's Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution Hans-Georg Maassen said that China, Russia and other countries continued to try to break into German companies’ computers to steal valuable industrial information.

Speaking to the assorted throngs at a security conference Maassen said he was worried about so-called “cyber bombs” that could be planted in the network of an unsuspecting company and “detonated” later.

Maassen said: “In the case of China and Russia, we clearly see measures like espionage, but it could also be sabotage with the goal of attacking companies in Germany - infrastructure firms in the widest sense - at some future point. That is a scenario that we view with concern.”

Germany is a particularly attractive target for cyber attackers of all kinds.

A company could be completely oblivious to a cyber-attack that had been used to plant malware - a “cyber bomb”, Maassen said. Then the bomb could shut down power networks, for example, perhaps during a time of geopolitical tension.

Such attacks could come from a range of countries that have expanded their cyber expertise. In its annual report, the agency cited rapid strides in cyber technology by Iran, although it did not specifically spell out concerns about such sleeper attacks.

Germany is increasingly concerned that China is seeking to gain dominant positions in key technology sectors by investing in German firms as part of its larger “Made in China 2025” drive, Maassen said.

“That is a political project in which the government is spending a lot of money, not just to invest, but to buy information for its own technical progress, or to gain a position in specific areas that will make it impossible for others to continue developments there”, he said.

Last modified on 05 September 2018
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