A quarter of organisations have had M&A activity or a big product launch affected by a data breach or the threat of a breach, according to the latest research from McAfee which highlights the growing risk to firms of intellectual property theft.
The study, Underground Economies: Intellectual Capital and Sensitive Corporate Data Now the Latest Cybercrime Currency, interviewed over 1,000 senior IT decision makers across the globe, and found that only half of those affected by a breach actually took steps to remediate and protect systems from future breaches.
This apparent failure to follow best practice in information security, despite the fact that organisations are spending more than $1m a day on IT, could be down to a perception issue, according to McAfee's European chief technology officer, Raj Samani.
"There could be a disparity between the impact of a physical theft and an information theft. To a degree, the effect of an intellectual property theft may not be immediately felt," he told V3.co.uk.
"These attacks can be a lot more surreptitious. Advanced persistent threats, for example, by their very nature stay underground for as long as possible."
The study, carried out with the Science Applications International Corporation, found that cyber criminals are increasingly turning their attention towards corporate assets such as trade secrets, marketing plans, research and development findings and even source code.
Whereas personal data must be secured under the Data Protection Act and customer card data is regulated by the PCI standard, securing intellectual property has largely escaped regulation by industry or legislation, Samani pointed out.
"It's a cat and mouse game. We're seeing the volume and the complexity of threats increasing," he said.
"Firms need to start by understanding the value of their data. Itellectual property is the lifeblood of any organisation and failure to protect it could be the death knell of the business."
The report also found that half of organisations are looking to store their intellectual property abroad, and that a third are seeking to increase the amount of sensitive data they store abroad.
Samani argued that firms must be alive to the potential threats, understand their security responsibilities and ensure that the whole supply chain is watertight when considering models such as cloud computing and outsourcing which involve the transfer of data abroad.
"We don't want to discourage people from using technologies because of the cost savings and efficiencies that can result from things like cloud computing," he added.
"However, organisations need to take a step back and proactively mitigate risk, using data loss prevention and other tools and combining them with security awareness and data classification policies."
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