A growing number of countries can hack into private computer networks and install malicious software to sabotage another country's infrastructure, Germany's domestic spy chief said on Tuesday, according to Radio Farda.
China, Russia and other countries continued to try to break into German companies' computers to steal industrial information, Hans-Georg Maassen, head of the BfV domestic intelligence agency, told a security conference.
But intelligence officials are increasingly worried about so-called "cyber bombs" that could be planted in the network of an unsuspecting company and detonated later.
"In the case of China, Russia, we clearly see measures like espionage, but it could also be sabotage with the goal of attacking companies in Germany - infrastructure firms in the widest sense - at some future point," Maassen said. "That is a scenario that we view with concern."
Cyber experts warn that Germany - with its high level of technology expertise - is a particularly attractive target for cyber attackers of all kinds, including state actors.
A company could be oblivious to a cyber attack that had been used to plant malware, Maassen said. Such a "cyber bomb" could then shut down power networks, for example, perhaps during a time of geopolitical tension.
He said such attacks could come from a range of countries. In its annual report, the agency cited rapid strides in Iran's cyber capabilities, although it did not specifically spell out concerns about such sleeper attacks.