Study: 1 in 5 big firms attacked by hackers

One-fifth of Germany’s major companies has been attacked by hackers within the past three years, but companies are also not taking cyber security as seriously as they should, according to a study released on Monday.

Study: 1 in 5 big firms attacked by hackers
Photo illustration: DPA.

Companies with more than €1 billion in returns were the most at risk according to the report by international professional services firm Ernst and Young, with one-fifth reporting concrete evidence of cyber attacks.

The report said what was more troubling was that one in five attacks were only detected by accident and companies seem to largely be relying on simple technology for protection.

“The continued carelessness of many companies is surprising,” said Ernst and Young Forensic Technology & Discovery Services leader Bodo Meseke in a statement. “They think that they are sufficiently protected or would not be a target of data theft and cyber-attacks.

“This shows that there are always new revelations that anyone can be a target of such attacks and the common protection mechanisms can be circumvented,” he continued.

Ernst and Young surveyed the CEOs and senior IT executives of 450 German companies.

They found that 80 percent of companies stick to just simple protection strategies, such as putting up firewalls, antivirus software and having good passwords.

About 30 percent of companies use more extensive protections such as intruder detection and prevention systems that can indicate when hacker activity is taking place. This figure is twice as high as in 2013, but the report said it is still too little.

“This is negligence,” said Meseke. “Passwords and antivirus software can be very quickly circumvented by hackers today, within minutes… Firms that have sensitive company or client data on their servers should definitely introduce more stringent security measures.”

The report said that though smaller companies reported fewer attacks than big ones, the actual number of attacks they experience could be much higher because they do not have sufficient technology to detect attacks.

In 74 percent of attacks, hackers went after electronic data processing systems, while in 21 percent of cases IT-systems were attacked. Client and employee data was tapped into in 11 percent of cases while 10 percent of cases were committed by a company’s own employee.

In nearly half (48 percent) of cyber security breaches cases, the hacker remained unknown and 18 percent of attacks were committed by “hacktivist” groups like Anonymous.

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Germany opens ‘anti-competition’ probe into Amazon with tougher law

Germany's competition authority said Tuesday it had opened an inquiry into online retail giant Amazon over potential "anti-competitive practices", using a new law giving regulators more power to rein in big tech companies.

Germany opens 'anti-competition' probe into Amazon with tougher law
An Amazon warehouse in Brandenburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Patrick Pleul

Federal Cartel Office head Andreas Mundt said his office is examining whether Amazon has “an almost unchallengeable position of economic power” and whether it “operates across various markets”.

If so, it would be deemed of “paramount significance”, said Mundt, adding that the regulator could “take early action against and prohibit possible anti-competitive practices by Amazon”.

“This could apply to Amazon with its online marketplaces and many other, above all digital offers,” he added.

Under the amendment to Germany’s competition law passed in January, the watchdog said it now has more power to “intervene earlier and more effectively” against big tech companies, rather than simply punishing them for abuses of their dominant market position.

READ ALSO: ‘I want to know origin of my grapes’: Amazon loses fruit and veg ruling in German court

The German reform coincided with new EU draft legislation unveiled in December aimed at curbing the power of the internet behemoths that could shake up the way Silicon Valley can operate in the 27-nation bloc.

The push to tighten legislation comes as big tech companies are facing increasing scrutiny around the globe, including in the United States, where Google and Facebook are facing antitrust suits.

The Amazon probe is only the second time that Germany’s Federal Cartel Office has made use of its new powers, after first employing them to widen the scope of an investigation into Facebook over its integration of virtual reality headsets.

The watchdog already has two traditional abuse control proceedings open against Amazon.

One involves the company’s use of algorithms to influence the pricing of third-party sellers on Amazon Marketplace, while another is probing the extent to which Amazon and major producers such as Apple exclude third parties from
selling brand products.