Systems need to be secured against errant attacks no matter how big or who the criminal is.

Ed Gibson, chief security advisor at Microsoft UK, claimed that this was important ‘now, more than ever before' whether the act was ‘the unexpected internal or external espionage'.

Gibson said: “Just because it hasn't happened to you yet, does not mean you are okay. All these outlets for data breaches are still intrinsically linked to people, process and technology. As much as we would like to think otherwise, I still see companies without basic standard operating procedures to address the accidental data loss to a complete compromise of the company infrastructure.

“This raises many issues around management policies and how they interrelate with Government legislation; legislation that in the future is likely to increase pressure on organisations to take security even more seriously.”

He further urged CEOs to understand that that increased legislation and the wider issue of security may not necessarily be a negative drain on resources, and should be considered seriously.

Gibson said: “Legislation makes us focus, or pay the price of non-compliance – a monetary fine to criminal charges. Does your management understand the importance of customer data to your business, both in the context of business-specific property, and as a significant factor in customer confidence?

“In the present credit crunch, one of the natural responses of business is to reduce budgets and spending, particularly on ‘perceived non-business critical' areas such as security. This will ultimately be fatal. Security must be at the forefront of CEOs' minds; firstly, due to the impact a lack of security can have on consumer confidence, and secondly because of the inherent business advantages that can be achieved through ensuring best practice.

“At some point the buck has to stop on someone's desk. But until we have robust security software and processes in place to protect our data maybe we should curb the finger-pointing and work out why the loss occurred and fix the problem. It will benefit your customers and ultimately your business.”