As criminals have more access to different services, tools and guides on hacking forums and illicit marketplaces, cybercrime increases worldwide. Recently, government and industry executives reported in Germany that cybercrime is expanding rapidly in the country. In one of the most technologically and digitally advanced countries in the world, officials stated that despite the major increase in cyber attacks targeting corporate, governmental and individual victims in Germany, the vast majority of such attacks are not reported to law enforcement authorities.

“Classical organized crime is increasingly discovered on the internet as a business,” Markus Koths, head of the cybercrime unit at the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), said in a statement. “Cybercrime as Service was the latest trend. Complex fraud methods would be distributed via the network (‘Rent a Hacker’). For example, botnets would be offered to paralyze company platforms or malicious software concepts to blackmail computer users.”

Koths told at a conference that the number of cases when cybercrime was reported in 2016 nearly doubled to over 82,000 instances, resulting in damages of over 51 million euros ($55.7 million). The official stated that this number only represents the number of reported cases. Koths claimed that the reported cases only represent approximately 10 percent of all cases relating to cybercrime, which some industry specialists claimed could range into the millions with damage with estimates as high as 22.4 billion euros.

According to Koths, the biggest trend that was driving the increase was the area of “cybercrime-as-a-service” (CaaS). He detailed that cybercriminals both on the clearnet (the normal part of the internet most people know of) and on dark web forums and marketplaces are offering hacking services and access to malicious software, which they could use for their attacks against victims. Koths said that cybercrime-as-a-service “is the backbone of modern cybercrime.”

Klaus Mittelbach, head of the ZVEI German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers’ Association, said that his company was a victim of a ransomware attack, a malicious software that encrypts the data of the victims and demand payments from them to unlock their computers or devices. According to him, Germany should set up a central emergency number for people affected by cyber attacks to encourage better reporting. Mittelbach added that his firm never paid any ransom to the criminals.

According to the report, many companies fear that if they report a cyber attack, then they will lose shares, position, reputation, or face any other negative consequences.

Koths said that Germany’s federal cyber security agency estimated that there are about 560 million versions of different malicious software programs in circulation at the moment, compared to 440 million, which law enforcement authorities reported a year earlier. The officials told at the conference that cybercrime was expected to continue growing given the increasing usage of smartphones, industrial systems, and household appliances.

Holger Muench, president of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), stated that Germany needs to improve skills regarding cyber security and digital technology in order to stay ahead of cyber criminals and prevent cyber attacks from happening. Muench added that his agency was already working to share more data and intelligence with law enforcement agencies in other countries.

Sandro Gaycken, director of the Digital Society Institute, said Germany is a big target for industrial espionage due to its “high levels of technology and the wide array of potential targets among small to medium-sized businesses.” A recent study by the Center for Security and International Studies in the United States estimated that cybercrime damages about 0.7 percent of the global gross domestic product (GDP), however, the rate for Germany is around 1.6 percent, which would be around 50 billion euros, Gaycken said. He added that the official figures are much smaller than this estimated number.

“If that is right, it’s the worst form of crime that we have in Germany,” Gaycken said in a statement.

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