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UK businesses 'not planning for cyber crime'

Posted by: Laurence Simons 26/06/13

One way in which the emergence of computers and the internet has changed the world is that white-collar crime is now inextricably linked to emails, hacking and software. Scandals like Watergate almost seem quaint compared to the recent revelations about the NSA, which highlight just how much information can be vulnerable to abuse if not sufficiently secured.

Despite this prescient vision of our chilling dystopian present, the majority of UK businesses are going about their businesses as gaily as a small girl in a summer meadow, with four in five FTSE 350-listed companies not preparing for cyber attacks.

According to the Financial Times/ICSA Boardroom Bellwether survey, only 21 per cent of firms have identified their key information assets and taken steps to mitigate the risks of an attack by malicious hackers.

This figure should leave in-house lawyers moaning and lightly massaging their temples, given how much risk firms are exposing themselves to by not ensuring all their processes are secure and safeguarded.

Unfortunately, many business executives still have not realised that not keeping data safe is the equivalent of walking through London bouncing your wallet in your palm and singing Pink Floyd's Money.

However, only one in ten businesses are actually satisfied with their security policies - many have not yet decided on their way forward, while others are looking for external help and guidance in improving their systems.

David Willetts, the science minister, said: "We are encouraging companies to make cyber security a board-level responsibility and understand how it could affect their bottom line."

The government is also "engaging with key industry sectors to raise awareness and encourage behaviour change, so companies focus on the threat of an attack before it happens", concluded the minister.

Some £650 million has already been set aside for the National Cyber Security Programme, with an additional £210 million included in the last budget, highlighting how seriously the government is taking this issue.

With more in-house lawyers being offered boardroom roles to guide companies through the regulatory and risk problems they are facing, hopefully more focus will also be placed on avoiding the crises caused by cyber crime.