From the point of view of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, German companies and research institutions are still not careful enough when it comes to the risk of espionage, sabotage and the danger of supply chains collapsing.
With regard to Russia and China, the Vice President of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Sinan Selen, warned on Thursday at a meeting of his authority and the Alliance for Security in Business (ASW) in Berlin: "Authoritarian regimes use liberal freedom to spread their influence", warns Selenium. This year's title of the event shows how serious the situation is: "A world in turmoil - challenges for our supply chains, research
Classic espionage and cyber attack campaigns
Unlike in the past, when mutual dependencies were seen as a conflict-inhibiting factor, Selen says 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. Some of the hardest-hit industries included aerospace, biotechnology, industrial robotics, communications, and engineering, among others.
One example is the young employee of the University of Augsburg, who was convicted last year and hired by the Russian secret service SWR to search for secret information about the Ariane rockets. The fact that he ended up getting off with a suspended sentence, despite repeated meetings with an agent leader, has to do with the fact that the court believed that he did not initially understand that he might be working for a secret service.
"Yes, we have enemies"
Christian Mölling of the German Council on Foreign Relations says it is important now not only to think about the consequences of Russia's war of aggression in Ukraine, but also to consider what risks the scenario of a possible conflict in Asia entails. With a view to the security of their supply chains, German companies should also make it clear: "Yes, we have enemies." These are states that do not accept “the way we live”.
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, emphasizes Selen. "There's little point in keeping threat scenarios you've already been confronted with to yourself," he warns corporate security chiefs. Corporations with their own security departments are better positioned overall, says ASW CEO, Volker Wagner - also about the activities of associations, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution and the Federal Criminal Police Office. In the case of medium-sized companies in rural areas, however, he still sees a need for action.
Dependence on China and India
One of the particularly vulnerable elements of the so-called critical infrastructure is Johannes Abresch from Corporate Security at Deutsche Post DHL Group Unterseekabel for Communication. 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. He also points to Germany's high dependency on China and India for the supply of medicines. Not only photovoltaic systems, but also turbines for wind power plants are largely produced in China, he points out.
With a view to the economic involvement of companies from authoritarian states in Europe, Vice Selen for the Protection of the Constitution says: "Whenever a dominance is established that becomes dominant in the market, we find ourselves in difficult areas. Investments in Germany are more than desirable, but they shouldn't be result in companies being "eviscerated in their very essence".
Consider secondary effects
The security expert at Deutsche Post cites the decline in grain exports from Ukraine caused by the Russian war of aggression as an example of the secondary effects a conflict can have. This could lead to destabilization in North African countries that traditionally get a large part of their wheat from there, which could then trigger further migration movements to Europe.
European aircraft currently have to make detours on their way to Asia, which is why they need more kerosene and can then take on less freight. Asian companies, on the other hand, could continue to use Russian airspace, giving them a competitive advantage.