Cyber crime – a real problem for companies

Attacks on corporate IT represent the greatest challenge for businesses worldwide. They involve the threat of blackmail, theft and system failures – more often than not, considerable financial damage.

According to the digital association Bitkom, the German economy alone recorded damage from cybercrime of more than 220 billion euros in 2020/21, twice as high as in 2018/2019. The main drivers of this huge increase are incidents of extortion, combined with the disruption to operations and the failure of information and production systems.

From ransomware to social engineering

Attacks with ransomware are particularly dangerous for companies. Hackers use ransomware to block computers and other systems, then demand a ransom. As a rule, they are successful in doing so, because ransomware attacks paralyse operations – in part or sometimes even completely.

Another gateway for immense damage are Distributed Denial of Services (DDoS) attacks, in which attackers deliberately overload a system with mass requests. The motive for a DDoS attack can be targeted extortion, but also harming the competition or a specific political interest.

Dangers also lurk in the home office. According to Bitkom, more than half of all the companies surveyed said there had been IT security incidents attributable to homeworking since the start of the pandemic. Criminals exploit the “human factor” as the weakest link in the security chain to obtain sensitive data such as passwords – sometimes all it takes is a phone call. Social engineering also includes spoofing, in which damage is done by pretending to be someone else, and phishing, in which personal information or access data is intercepted. Data thieves are targeting communications data, but also patents, financial data and critical business information.


IT security gains in importance

Companies have now increased their investments in IT security – a direct response to the threat situation. In addition, more and more companies are also taking out insurance against hacker attacks, because there is no sign that they will abate any time soon. In the future, the threat situation from cyberattacks will become even more serious.

But what should you do if your company becomes the victim of a cyberattack? It is important to take countermeasures quickly and make decisions at management level. The police, data protection authority and insurance company must be informed immediately. In Germany, companies that operate critical infrastructure, in accordance with the IT Security Act, must also report the incident to the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI).

As a consequence, IT security needs to be understood as an essential part of the corporate strategy. This is the only way to protect infrastructures and business operations. IT specialists should perform a comprehensive security check, including extensive penetration testing, to uncover vulnerabilities in their own systems. Employees should also be sufficiently sensitised and their devices secured, including in home offices. Regular backups should be a matter of course, so that operations can get back up and running quickly in the event of an incident. Finally, IT security should be taken into account as soon as new systems are created and become part of the DNA of the entire company.

[1] This is the conclusion of AGCS, an industrial insurer belonging to Allianz. For its latest “Risk Barometer”, in the autumn of 2021 it surveyed a total of 2650 experts from 89 countries. This included more than 1,200 executives from large companies with more than 500 million US dollars in annual turnover.

[2] These are the findings of a representative study by the digital association Bitkom, for which more than 1,000 companies across all industries were surveyed. German economy under attack: more than 220 billion euros in damage per year | Bitkom Main

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