Anyone who has received “notification” of funky activity on their credit card, or an urgent e-mail plea from the widow of Mobutu Sese Seko won’t be surprised to learn that information theft is a big problem. But a new survey out from Kroll Consulting finds that its also the biggest problem facing corporations – surpassing even the theft of physical goods.
In its recently released Global Fraud Report, Kroll said that its poll of 800 executives revealed that information theft was the most-reported form of fraud, with 27.3% of those surveyed reporting an incident of information theft in the previous 12 months, compared to 18% who reported information theft over the previous 12 months in 2009. By comparison, reports of theft of physical assets were a shade lower, with 27.2% of respondents having reported that within the previous 12 months.
Kroll commissioned the survey of 800 senior executives at global firms. It was carried out by the Economist Intelligence Unit in July and August, 2010. The survey covered executives in a wide range of verticals, including financial services, retail, professional services, technology, media and so on. Around 47% were C-level executives, and a majority of respondents worked at companies with annual revenues over $500m. Around 30% came from North America, a quarter came from Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, and 11% from Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.
Information theft was especially targeted at information-centric verticals including financial services, technology, professional services, as well as media and telecommunications, the poll found. Forty two percent of the financial services companies surveyed by Kroll reported information theft, loss or attack in the last 12 months, compared with just 24% in 2009. The number was 40% for professional services firms, up from 27% last year.
Poorly protected information technology assets was fingered as a contributing factor to the growth of information theft as a problem.
“Poorly defended technology is increasingly easy to exploit for fraudsters with ever more advanced tools of their own, ranging from sophisticated hacking to a simple memory stick,” the report concluded.
Phishing attacks were a leading source of concern, with 20 percent of those surveyed listing that, as well as “increased technology use” – the so-called ‘consumerization of IT’ as the two most common elements of fraud that led to information theft.
Fears among enterprises about information theft stand to increase investments in information technology this year -with 48% of those surveyed saying they will increase their investment in security and anti fraud technology.
More worrying, especially for developing nations, however, is what companies won’t do, namely: expand operations in countries where fears of corruption, information theft or intellectual property theft are high. According to Kroll’s survey of executives, fully 33% of respondents cited fears of information theft as dissuading them from doing business in china. Concerns about intellectual property theft dissuaded 23% from doing business there.
Kroll’s Global Fraud Report can be found online (PDF) format at Kroll.com.