BERLIN, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) -- The operators of critical infrastructure in Germany are increasingly targeted in cyber attacks, a report published on Thursday by the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) warned.
According to the report, the BSI was alerted to 145 such incidents between July 1, 2017 and May 31, 2018. Most of the attacks were concentrated in the information technology (IT) and telecommunications sector, followed by the energy industry.
The BSI estimated that the number of malware programs increased from 600 million to 800 million during the same period, with 390,000 new variants now being released each day. "Well-known malware software families are continuously altered, redeveloped and equipped with new malevolent functions," the report read.
The report highlighted that government networks were also in the crosshair of cyber criminals on a daily basis. These incidents included targeted campaigns as well as mass attacks, mostly through e-mails containing malware. Between July 2017 and May 2018, 28,000 threatening emails per month were caught in security filters on average before they could reach the intended inbox.
Because of the growing number of attacks, greater complexity of digital infrastructure, and a larger volume of online data, the BSI argued on Thursday that the likelihood of successful cyber crime had also increased.
Ransomware, in which hackers lock users out of their own data or computers and demand ransoms to release the information in question again, remained a massive cyber threat, although it had declined in 2018 compared to 2017.
Looking forward, the BSI pointed to an illegal form of crypto-mining in which computers are used without the knowledge of the owners to mine crypto currencies and can rack up high electricity bills as a consequence. Additionally, the spread of digitally-connected household appliances, also known as the "internet of things" (IoT), offered new and in some cases highly-sensitive targets for cyber-crime. For example, networked cardiac pacemakers could be hacked and reprogrammed unless they were equipped with strong encryption and security systems.
Commenting on the newly-published BSI report on Thursday, Iris Ploeger, a member of the managing board of the Federation of German Industries (BDI) stressed that cyber security was the "pre-condition for the digital transformation of the economy and society."
"The state and companies must cooperate much more closely on the subject of cyber security than is currently the case," Ploeger argued. She encouraged companies which had not yet done so to become active members of the German Alliance for Cyber Security, founded in 2012 to improve the knowledge of related threats among business leaders.
Ploeger emphasized that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in particular needed to intensify their efforts to protect themselves against digital crime. "Cyber security should be part of the DNA of every corporate strategy. Continuous employee training and investment in the cyber security infrastructure of a company are essential."