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US firms 'at risk from cybercrime'

Posted by: Laurence Simons 19/06/14

General counsel at American businesses are increasingly under pressure to manage and mitigate the risks of cybercrime affecting their organisation, a new report from PwC and a host of other collaborators has suggested.

The 2014 US State of Cybercrime survey was compiled with the help of CSO Magazine, experts at Carnegie Mellon University and the American Secret Service.

Worryingly, it found that businesses are not adapting their security processes to match the increasing sophistication and subtlety of modern hacking techniques.

Some 3,000 US companies were affected by cyber crime last year, with the victims ranging from small banks to leading retailers and defence contractors.

William Noonan, deputy special agent in charge for the US Secret Service Criminal Investigative Division, said: "The increasing level of collaboration among cyber criminals allows them to compartmentalise their operations, greatly increasing the sophistication of their criminal endeavours and allowing for development of expert specialisation."

As an in-house lawyer, the issue of hacking and online crime can be somewhat daunting, especially for those who do not have a tech-focused background.

However, the temptation to leave it to the security experts within the IT department should be resisted, as a cross-organisation approach will generally prove considerably more effective.

And given the role corporate counsel can play in minimising risk, it is clear they need to hone their skills in what could be one of the most dangerous arenas for businesses across the coming years.

Tom Ridge, chief executive officer of security firm Ridge Global and the first secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security, said cyber attacks are now undeniably a boardroom issue.

"I think there will be a lot more litigation than we’ve seen in the past," he predicted.

Directors across the US are paying more attention to this area following a spate of high-profile security failures over the last 12 months, concluded Mr Ridge.

For in-house lawyers, an awareness of technological issues is increasingly becoming an essential part of their skill-set.