Mutual dependency was once considered a good antidote to conflict. Today it is the Achilles’ heel, constitutional protection officers warn. The risks include data theft, but also sabotage, for example on submarine cables.

According to constitutional protection officers and other experts, German companies and research institutions must become more cautious and suspicious because of the growing risks of espionage – especially from Russia and China. “Authoritarian regimes use liberal freedom to spread their influence,” warned the Vice President of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Sinan Selen, on Thursday at a meeting between his authority and the Alliance for Security in Business (ASW) in Berlin. The event was themed ‘A world in turmoil – challenges for our supply chains, research

Unlike in the past, when mutual dependencies were seen as a conflict-inhibiting factor, they are now increasingly being used as a weapon. In addition to classic espionage, the methods used by these regimes also included the sending of researchers on behalf of the state, the recruitment of German scientists and cyber attack campaigns, explained Selen. Some of the hardest-hit industries included aerospace, biotechnology, industrial robotics, communications, and engineering, among others.

In order to better protect Germany as a business location, it is important that the Office for the Protection of the Constitution and the companies internally exchange information on current dangers in a spirit of trust. “There is little point in keeping to oneself threat scenarios that they have already been confronted with.”

Among the particularly vulnerable elements of the so-called critical infrastructure are undersea cables for communication, said Johannes Abresch from corporate security at Deutsche Post DHL Group. In addition to the risk of data theft by intelligence services, sabotage is also a major danger here, since damage to these cables can cause immense economic damage with relatively little effort.