Data theft from UK companies by employees is at a record high, according to law firm EMW.
The number of High Court cases relating to the theft of confidential company information more than doubled from 2010 to 2012, the firm told the Telegraph.
In the past year, most cases involved small companies and employees who were leaving the company.
Research from EMW shows that data theft is costing small UK companies millions of pounds, with the average legal costs alone at around £30,000.
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Typically, disgruntled employees are making copies of company databases and other business-critical information to take to new employers, to set up their own businesses, or to sell to marketing firms.
Data theft has become extremely easy as employees are able to copy vast quantities of data within seconds to cloud-based storage services, which can be accessed later from outside the company.
Remote access to company systems is also enabling disgruntled employees to access sensitive information and copy it to their home computers.
Smaller companies tend to be more vulnerable to such data theft due to the lack of technical controls and security policies more commonly in use by larger companies.
The most commonly affected small companies are financial services firms, estate agents and recruitment firms.
In April, a survey by OnePoll for security company LogRhythm revealed that 75% of UK employees polled said they had no systems to prevent employees gaining unauthorised access to company data.
Some 80% said they did not believe any of their employees would view or steal confidential information, yet a poll of employees showed 23% had accessed or taken confidential data from their workplace.
One in ten employees admitted they access confidential data regularly.
The employers’ survey showed a third do not believe there is a need for systems to protect data from employees, and nearly two-thirds do not regularly change passwords to stop ex-employees accessing sites or documents.