Computer crime is on the rise in Germany, in particular in the automobile, electronics and machine-building industries, according to a study by consultants KPMG. The reason: more companies and people are networked, which lets information flow more freely than ever before.

In the "E-Crime Study 2010," which polled 500 executives in Germany, KPMG found that 25 percent of all German companies had been the victim of computer crime in the past three years. Bigger companies are targeted more often than smaller ones.

Automotive and electronics companies are hit especially hard, KMPG said, because they work with particularly valuable information, such as plans for future models and documents outlining new processes and procedures.

The sources for most leaked information are company employees, former employees and service providers, according to the study.

And, because IT systems are growing in complexity and portable media such as laptops and USB sticks are everywhere, E-crimes become harder to detect and prevent.

Companies are fighting back, according to the study. They are stepping up their protective measures and are carrying out more controls. At the same time, they are pushing awareness campaigns to sensitive workers to E-crime risks.

KPMG says the main responsibility for dealing with the problem most often lies with companies’ IT departments. These are particularly hard-hit by the rise of social networks, which have spawned a proliferation of often confidential information into the public domain. Social networks are also targeted frequently with malicious software that spy on users and extract passwords and other information from them.

The study concludes that IT departments cannot be solely responsible for the prevention of E-crime. Internal procedures need to be strengthened and senior management needs to be more actively involved, KPMG said.