Cybercrime cost £700bn in 2008

Data theft and cybercrime may have cost businesses as much as $1 trillion (£700bn) globally in lost intellectual property and the costs for repairing the damage last year, according to a new study from McAfee.

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Data theft and cybercrime may have cost businesses as much as $1 trillion (£700bn) globally in lost intellectual property and the costs for repairing the damage last year, according to a new study from McAfee.

The estimate is based on a survey of more than 800 IT decision makers in the UK, US, Germany, Japan, China, India, Brazil and Dubai.

What's more, most IT managers are concerned that the worsening economic situation could spur some employees to turn to data theft. The McAfee-sponsored worldwide survey (registration required) found that 42 percent of respondents felt that the laid-off employees represented the biggest IT security threat caused by the recession. That's more than were worried about outside intruders.

And 36 percent said that they were worried about security problems caused by employees in financial stress.

Crime rates spike during hard times, and with thousands of workers being laid off each week now, there may be an added incentive for employees shown the door to take intellectual property with them to bolster their chances of getting hired with a competitor, to use with a start-up company of their own, or maybe even to sell.

"The economic downturn across the board is going to provide additional motivation for people who would want to do harm," said Seth Bromberger, an information security manager with PG&E in San Francisco. "It's on a lot of people's radar right now."

According to Bromberger, companies that have their employee exit processes in order have less to fear from laid-off workers. It's just that with the current economic squeeze, people's motivation may be changing

Layoffs can fray employee loyalty, and there certainly is money to be made selling all kinds of corporate data.

Last August, a financial analyst with subprime mortgage broker Countrywide named Rene Rebollo was arrested by the US Federal Bureau of investigation for allegedly selling Excel spreadsheets containing customer information for about two-and-a-half cents per record. Over a two-year period he may have made US$70,000 from the scam, the FBI said.His annual salary was $65,000.

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