Companies should not underestimate the level of corporate espionage – often backed by governments and their intelligence agencies – now taking place across the world.
That is the message of security specialists following the revelation by Jonathan Evans, the head of the UK's intelligence service, MI5, that one company suffered an estimated £800m loss as a result of the theft of its intellectual property.
Evans was speaking at the Lord Mayor's Annual Defence and Security Lecture about the security threats facing the UK and, in particular, the magnitude of cyber assaults now taking place, targeting corporate intellectual property.
"Vulnerabilities in the internet are being exploited aggressively, not just by criminals, but also by states. And the extent of what is going on is astonishing – with industrial-scale processes involving many thousands of people lying behind both state-sponsored cyber espionage and organised cyber crime," said Evans.
"This is a threat to the integrity, confidentiality and availability of government information, but also to business and academic institutions. What is at stake is not just our government secrets but also the safety and security of our infrastructure, the intellectual property that underpins our future prosperity and the commercially sensitive information that is the life-blood of our companies and corporations," he continued.
Evans claimed that one company had lost £800m as a result of a state-sponsored cyber attack.
"One major London-listed company with which we have worked estimates that it incurred revenue losses of some £800m as a result of hostile state cyber attack – not just through intellectual property loss, but also from commercial disadvantage in contractual negotiations. They will not be the only corporate victim of these problems," said Evans.