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Data theft by cybercriminals biggest loss for businesses, survey reveals

Warwick Ashford

Data theft has more than doubled to overtake physical property losses for the first time in the past year, according to an annual global fraud survey.

More than 27% of companies reported data losses, while the number reporting physical theft fell below the 2009 level of 28%, the latest survey of 800 companies by risk consultancy Kroll found.

The cause of data breaches commonly included the theft of computers, information being downloaded to portable storage media by employee, and attacks by criminal gangs using stolen login credentials.

Financial services and professional services are the most vulnerable to data theft, with 40% of companies reporting a loss or attack in the past year, the survey found.

Overall, 27.3% of companies polled reported information or data fraud problems, with 83% of companies doing business in the UK reporting fraud losses.

According to security firms, hackers are turning their attention to individuals within companies, where the potential gains are far greater.

Cybercriminals are collecting information about individuals as a way of penetrating corporate networks, said Uri Rivner, head of new technologies, identity protection and verification at RSA.

The attacks on Google and about 30 other US companies in late 2009 marked a shift from random, general attacks to targeted attacks, focusing on individuals, he told Computer Weekly.

Financial, legal services, pharmaceutical, and manufacturing firms are often targeted because of their valuable data assets, said Ash Patel, country manager for UK and Ireland at security firm Stonesoft.

Security researchers the firm have discovered that new evasion techniques being used by cybercriminals are able to bypass most network security intrusion detection systems.


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