Businesses and cyber-security – A spook speaks: Its cost may be hard to count, but cybercrime has companies worried

Like blooms on a peculiar plant, speeches by the head of the British security service are rare; and when they do appear, they draw attention. On June 25th Jonathan Evans, the director-general of MI5, burst into oratorical flower for the first time in 21 months. After commenting on preparations for the Olympic games and on counter-terrorism, Mr Evans turned to cyber-security — where the “front line…is as much in business as it is in government.” States as well as criminals were up to no good, he said: in particular, a “major London listed company with which we have worked” had lost revenue of “some £800m” ($1.2 billion) to state-sponsored cyber-attack. The firm in question had lost intellectual property and had been put at a disadvantage in commercial negotiations.Examples and rumours abound of companies being burgled by cyberfrauds, cyberspooks or cyber-mischief-makers. On June 26th America’s Federal Trade Commission sued Wyndham Worldwide, a hotel group, alleging that security failures at the company in 2008 and 2009 had led to the export of hundreds of thousands of guests’ payment-card account numbers to a domain registered in Russia. The FTC says “millions of dollars” were lost to fraud. Wyndham says it knows of no customers who lost money and that the FTC’s claims are “without merit”.

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