E-attacks on companies - including from computer hackers and viruses - have multiplied by three times this year compared to 1998 - with the problem expected to sharply increase again in 2000.
Speaking at the Survive BS7799 special interest group meeting of senior financial figures at Prudential's head office in London, DK Matai, the managing director of Internet software provider mi2g, warned that problems surrounding the 'next big IT issue' are on the rise.
'E-risk and attacks are rising at the same rate as Internet use which in itself is expected to rapidly increase. Last year there were a reported 1,050 on-line security breaches but that figure is expected to top 3,000 this year at a total cost to business of over £20bn, not including share price decline,' said Matai.
Matai pointed to recent high profile Internet hijacks by hackers including the incidents at the websites of the White House, Hotmail, Argos and Nasdaq, which could have all been carried out by hackers using simple and inexpensive computer capabilities.
He added that if it could happen to them it could occur to any business software, while a recent report found 50% of businesses did not have any idea when their internet security had been breached.
There are an estimated 40,000 computer viruses with 500 in use at one time, while 'Trojan Horses' - software that surrenders client control to third parties - was also described as a threat.
Companies were told they could protect themselves by ensuring their e-risk management strategies were in place, including adequate legal approaches and insurance cover.
Matai also said he believed e-users in the future would carry some form of physical identification before being able to use electronic networks to combat e-crime, such as fingerprint records, personal computer identity cards or retinal scan verifications.
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