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Comparing Germany's Digital Risk to Western Europe's

by Cybersprint Blog 28 Jan 2020

Cybersprint is expanding their services in Germany. The development and awareness of cyber security in the German markets is interesting to see. This inspired us to make a comparative analysis of the cyber-resilience between German organisations and those in the rest of Western Europe. Does the German approach to regulatory control and cybersecurity result in a noticeable difference?

Finding various vulnerabilities

We used our Digital Risk Protection platform for this research. With it, we built the online footprints and attack surfaces of 50 German organisations. The method resembles that of a hacker’s: outside-in. We inventory subdomains, web pages and other assets using the organisations’ brand names. These 50 organisations have over 70,000 associated digital assets combined, with the largest over 10,000 and the smallest a handful. The organisations’ services, products and markets varied to make the results more representative.

Next, every individual asset is assessed based on the risks, from configuration errors, to email security and GDPR compliance. Some of these vulnerabilities are more critical than others. That’s why the platform assigns risk ratings from A (‘nothing to worry about’) to F (‘in need of immediate attention’). As a result, customers to our platform have 24/7 access to real-time insights into their footprint: empowering them to prioritise and remediate.

Obviously, only passive, non-invasive techniques have been used in gathering the data.

Ranking the risks

We compared two high-level outcomes:

  • The distribution of the security ratings (A – F)
  • The distribution of the risk categories

cyber security rating Germany

Figure 1. Percentages of total asset security rating per organisation.

We can see that, out of the 70,000 assets, 2% have an F rating, and an additional 6% have an E rating. This might sound bad, but it’s consistent with the control group.

Furthermore, we identified six kinds of risk categories:
Domain security = such as DNSSEC, subdomain takeovers
Email security = email spoofing, email authenticity, etc (can be fixed with e.g. DMARC)
Encryption = SSL security certificates, can someone intercept the website traffic?
Regulatory risks = cookie settings, GDPR compliance
Software configuration  = making it possible to see on what software your systems run
Vulnerabilities = older software versions containing known bugs

As can be seen in figure 2, four kinds of risks are very low and almost identical for the German and the Western European organisations. Vulnerabilities, domain security, encryption and regulatory risks only deviate by 1%, if at all. Initially, we expected the regulatory risks to show a bigger difference. However, regulatory risks across Germany and Western Europe are quite alike; 48 out of 50 brands have them.

Risk categories
Figure 2. Distribution of the risk categories in relation to the number of assets between the organisations in Germany and those in Western Europe.

The remaining two risk categories are a different story, though. Both groups show a much higher percentage of email security and software configuration vulnerabilities than in the other four categories. Although there are slightly less configuration errors detected for the German organisations, 57% of all detected German risks were email configuration errors, compared to the 48% in the control group.


While a lack of email security (such as configuring DMARC) is a wide-spread phenomenon, we do advise organisations to take action, since many attack types rely on email spoofing. Still, as for the overall comparison between the cybersecurity in Germany and Western Europe, our research doesn’t show a big difference or gap over the organisations subjected to the analyses.

The value of your digital footprint

Many risks, such as shadow IT, data leaks and advanced attacks, can be minimised by removing blind spots in your digital footprint. At Cybersprint, we believe that risk extends beyond the perimeter, and there’s more risk than just attacks: brand abuse, third party and regulatory risks are all addressable by monitoring your digital footprint, continuously and in real-time.

From risk to remediation, Cybersprint offers full visibility into your digital assets and their associated risks, with continuous, real-time, automated digital footprint monitoring.

online footprint visualisation


Mitre PRE-ATT&CK: What is it and how to use it

One of the best ways to improve your digital security is to let the past help prepare you for the future. Knowing the tactics threat actors have used in other cyber-attacks will help you determine what you should protect your systems from. Luckily, you needn’t figure that out by yourself. Mitre has created frameworks of the many different ways cyber-attacks have been orchestrated in existing use cases. Here’s how you can use this information to strengthen your cyber-resilience. What is the Mitre PRE-ATTACK framework? Mitre is an American organisation conducting federal-funded research into various markets with the aim to create a safer world through their research. Cybersecurity is one of those markets. To help organisations understand where their might need to focus more security resources on, they created two matrices of all techniques cyber-criminals have used to set up and execute attacks in the past. These are called the ATT&CK and the PRE-ATT&CK frameworks. Even though the ATT&CK framework is most well-known, we see a shift occurring, as PRE-ATT&CK is starting to step out of the shadow of ATT&CK with a more specific focus. Whereas the ATT&CK framework concentrates on the steps taken once an attack is launched, the PRE-ATT&CK framework focusses on the preceding preparation phases, allowing organisations to predict and prepare for attacks before they happen. Mitre’s frameworks match with other models, helping to frame the extensive matrices. To illustrate how PRE-ATT&CK differs from ATT&CK, we’ve plotted the frameworks in the ‘7 stages of the cyber kill chain’, as created by Lockheed Martin. All steps needed to execute a cyber-attack can be divided over these seven stages. As shown below, the first two stages are broadly covered by Mitre’s PRE-ATT&CK, and the other five by the ATT&CK framework. How to apply PRE-ATT&CK Preventing an attack is far more cost-effective than having to repair damages to IT systems, let alone the financial or reputational impact it can have. It is hard and expensive to determine the impact of an attack with IT forensics and replacing infected systems can have a negative effect on overall business productivity. Incorporating an automated outside-in perspective of your brand’s online exposure allows you to discover vulnerabilities in the same way an attacker might look for entry points into your IT infrastructure. This approach empowers you to regain control over your digital attack surface and mitigate risks before they can be exploited. This approach is called digital footprint management and can be placed under the concept of Digital Risk Protection. Below is an overview of Mitre’s PRE-ATT&CK framework. The complete matrix is a little too large to be read in detail, so a deep dive into the content is available via this video. The highlighted fields represent the areas covered by Digital Risk Protection and digital footprint monitoring. The light green indicates partial coverage and deep green full coverage. Combining the PRE-ATT&CK framework with your existing security procedures can help you identify potential threats and weak spots in your systems. Still, you first need to have a complete overview of your organisation’s digital assets before you can confidently say where you are more likely to be hit. That’s why the digital footprint approach works so well with PRE-ATT&CK. Having both will help you determine and validate where you might have underspent or overspent on security measures, for example. Besides improving the cyber-resilience of your systems, incorporating the Mitre PRE-ATT&CK framework in the organisation’s digital footprint will bring more business value to the organisation as a whole. This whitepaper explains the PRE-ATT&CK framework in more detail, and describes the specific ROI for your organisation. Looking for a comprehensive clarification of the security tactics described above, explained with actual use cases? Watch our recorded webinar. Sebastiaan Bosman is Content Marketeer at Cybersprint. With a   background in Communications and Linguistics, he is responsible for   the creation and editing processes of most internal and external   communication. He writes content such as blogs, whitepapers and   case studies, primarily based on Cybersprint’s own research data.   Previously, Sebastiaan worked as Content & Communications   Advisor at ING Global.

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From practice to preventing: How criminals adapt their attack methods

Similar to traditional ‘brick-and-mortar criminals’, not all cyber-criminals employ the same method to reach their goal. A burglar wouldn’t enter a house with an alarm or when there are people inside, but go for an easier opportunity. The same goes for internet-thieves. Their risk/reward balance depends on the required investment beforehand to successfully carry out their attack. What are the aspects they take into consideration?

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Use case: footprint mapping at ifm electronics

Interview with Kevin Kampeter, IT Security Specialist at ifm electronic gmbh.

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