His comments come after the Interior Ministry's 2008 domestic intelligence report was released this week in Berlin, revealing that science, engineering, renewable energy, materials research, pharmaceuticals and manufacturing businesses are becoming popular places to imbed foreign spies.
“The damages account for some €20 billion each year,” Stoppelkamp said, adding that it could be as high as €50 billion after the last two years when spying among international industrial competitors intensified.
“In part, classic spy techniques are employed. People with false records infiltrate firms,” he told the paper. “Or sensitive information is siphoned from trade shows and business meetings.”
According to news magazine Der Spiegel, the report revealed that China's military intelligence agency, as well as state security forces, have been actively seeking information for the “support of individual companies” that compete with German firms.
Chinese secret services also profit from a close economic and educational partnership with Germany, the magazine said. Exchange students and scientists from China are often placed in German research institutes, from where they provide information out of “patriotism or gratitude” for the possibility to work in Germany.
Meanwhile Russian spies are focusing on renewable energy firms, though there is evidence they have spies within telecommunications and aerospace firms too, the magazine reported.
The biggest risk is possible internet attacks on company networks, the report warned.
But ASW's Stoppelkamp told Mitteldeutsche Zeitung that businesses shouldn't just focus on the spectre of Russia and China.
“Our task is not to put individual countries in the pillory,” he said. “The ASW wants to prevent naive companies anywhere it the market from complaining that they weren't warned."