Industrial espionage costs German industry billions of euro each year with SMEs often the biggest losers, the BfV domestic intelligence agency said in its annual report.
The report mapped out a range of security threats including Islamist militancy and increased far-right violence, but highlighted the growing incidence of cyber espionage.
It cited a “noticeable increase” in spying by Turkey’s MIT foreign intelligence agency in Germany in 2016, following the failed July 15 coup in Turkey, and said Russia was seeking to influence a parliamentary election on September 24.
“The consequences for our country range from weakened negotiating positions to high material costs and economic damage all the way to impairment of national sovereignty,” it said.
Key targets were the foreign ministry and its overseas offices, the finance and economics ministries, the Chancellery and the German military.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the government was working closely with industry to better protect German firms, with the most affected sectors being the weapons, space and aerospace and car industries, as well as research institutes.
Cyber attacks could not only lead to losses of information but could also trigger “silent, ticking digital time bombs” through delayed-action malware that could manipulate data and sabotage equipment, especially critical infrastructure, the report said.