More than half of all German industrial companies have been the object of industrial espionage, sabotage or data theft in the past two years, according to a study by the country's high-tech association, Bitkom.

The study, which polled senior managers at 1,074 companies, found that car companies are most frequently targeted, followed by the chemical and pharmaceutical, banking and insurance industries.

"Digital attacks are a real danger to companies," Bitkom President Dieter Kempf said in a statement. "Many companies don't sufficiently protect their material and intangible assets."

Bitkom estimates that cybercrime costs German industry around 51 billion euros a year.

Theft of IT- and communication devices is cited as the most frequently occuring digital crime, while attacks on IT systems and communication infrastrucuture were most often the main targets of attacks.