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Hi-tech crime threatens UK plc – survey

Sabotage, virus attacks, fraud

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British companies consider sabotage of data or networks, virus attacks and financial fraud as a real threat to the future of their business.

A survey of 105 firms conducted by NOP for the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) yielded reports of more than 3,000 separate incidents with virus attacks accounting for 1,305. Hacking and Denial of Service attacks accounted for one in five (20 per cent) of all attacks.

Employee sabotage of date and networks were cited as particular problems by many firms.

Despite these various security threats fewer than one in five of those quizzed in the survey carried out regular security audit, something the authorities (and doubtless security consultants) would like to see become more common in future.

Detective Chief Superintendent Len Hynds, Head of the NHTCU, said: "With 87% of respondents reporting that they had suffered some kind of hi-tech attack it is not so much 'will you become a victim' but rather 'when
will you know that you are a victim'".

More than a third of those companies interviewed said they spent less than one per cent of the firm's total spend on prevention of computer-enabled crime.

"Security is not just about the height of the perimeter fence anymore. Business must focus on the issue as a broader topic which deals with business processes, policies, physical security and lines of accountability," DCS Hynds added.

Although almost all respondents had experienced at least one incident of serious computer-related crime, only 56 per cent had called the police in response to any of these events.

Companies mostly involved the police when suffering more traditional crimes such as fraud and theft, typically where there was a need for an insurance claim. But more than 10 per cent said they would avoid involving the police if their IT systems were attacked. Typically, they fear that reporting crimes to the police will result in publicising their security shortcomings and affect customer confidence, so damaging their brand.

To make companies feel more comfortable about reporting security incidents to the police the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit has launched a Confidentiality "designed to provide a safe platform for early confidential discussions between law enforcement and industry."

Since its launch in April 2001, the NHTCU has conducted 30 operations as well as provided assistance and support on various occasions to local, national and international law enforcement agencies. To date, the Unit has arrested 70 people involved in serious and organised computer related crime.

The NHTCU's survey, released today, echoes the themes of the more extensive Department of Trade and Industry's (DTI) annual Information Security Breaches Survey .

That survey, which involved 1,000 telephone interviews and 100 face-to-face interviews, also called for greater investment in security systems and warned of heightened risk from computer viruses, fraud and Internet-based attacks.

It found the average cost of a security breach is £30,000, with several companies reporting incidents which cost more than £500,000. ®

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