This is the worst time in recent memory for potential security breaches, according to a British Computer Society video debate.
IT security should remain one of the highest priorities during the economic downturn, especially for companies that may have to make redundancies over the coming months, the BCS debate concluded.
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The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has urged firms to keep on top of operational controls and risk management because of the danger that criminals may target increasingly desperate employees.
As they are under financial and job pressures as the downturn deepens, they may be tempted to commit data theft, among other crimes.
The video debate panel, which comprised Rik Ferguson of security firm Trend Micro, Hamid Jahankhani of the University of East London, and Louise Bennett of the BCS Security Forum, agreed that large organisations need a better understanding of which specific person has access to what information.
Ferguson said, "One of the things that government and corporations rightly fear when they lay people off is that they take things with them. They can't afford to take their eye off the ball now as it's probably their most insecure time in recent memory."
Bennett said, "If you are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy if you have a data loss that gets publicised, it will push you over the edge. Overlooking data security is a completely unaffordable thing to do."
Jahankhani also said a public information campaign that told people about the dangers of leaving personal information on social networking sites could help inform people about the value of their data.
The BCS Information Security Specialist Group is holding its annual conference on the theme of data leakage and data loss from 26-27 March.