Study Finds $1 Trillion At Risk From Data Theft

Considering the explosion of layoffs announced in recent weeks, companies would do well to seriously be on guard against data theft. According to a survey that polled some 800 companies in eight countries, 42 percent of firms admitted that laid-off employees were the single largest threat to their data security.

The survey, which was unsurprisingly conducted by security / technology firm McAfee, found that businesses overall risk losing over one trillion dollars from "loss or theft of data and other cybercrime." After a so-called "rapid acceleration of malicious software" -- better known by laypersons at malware -- occurred in 2008, McAfee set out to really find what all was at stake. By the numbers, malware increased by 400 percent last year, which isn't all that shocking given just how ubiquitous spam has become as well. Company CEO David DeWalt stated of the increase: "This was a very insidious type of malware that was designed either to steal your data, steal your identity, steal your money, and in many cases the scale as well as the sophistication was very alarming."

The information was outed at the high-profile World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week, where DeWalt proclaimed that the average company has $12 million of data stored outside of its home country, and oftentimes, those countries have less-than-stringent policies when it comes to intellectual property. Also of note, the proliferation of mobile phones, laptops and portable storage devices such as USB drives has enabled confidential data to escape the confines of a company much easier than in years past, not to mention the now standard use of email to shuffle files about.

Overall, we reckon that the $1 trillion figure is more of a sensationalized number to get attention on the matter than anything else. But just as we saw recently with retailer TJX agreeing to pay upwards of $24 million in order to make good on its security blunder that put credit card data for tens of millions of shoppers at risk, the threat -- at some level, at least -- is always lurking.