Half of companies around the world are unaware of, and do not take effective measures against, the most pressing cyber threats that exist today.

According to research by Kaspersky Lab of more than 3,300 senior IT professionals from 22 countries, while more than half of those surveyed admitted they had begun to pay more attention to the issue, only 59 per cent felt that they are more or less prepared for cyber threats.

Asked about major threats, 31 per cent were aware of banking Trojans Zeus and SpyEye, while in terms of industrial espionage tools, 27 per cent knew of Stuxnet and 23 per cent of Aurora.

Also, 48 per cent said that they were not sure they could combat intellectual property theft or fraud, while 51 per cent believed that they were incapable of protecting their company from industrial espionage.

The overall statistics did show a rise in proactive measures from 2011, with 25 per cent seen to be reactive (in comparison with 21 per cent a year ago), and only 16 per cent fixed issues after an incident.

In terms of measures taken to avert security threats, 67 per cent rely on anti-malware, yet this was also the main technology to be improved according to 14 per cent of respondents. Two-thirds (62 per cent) rely on regular patching, while 44 per cent, a rise by seven per cent from last year, are encrypting ‘highly sensitive data'.

Eugene Kaspersky, CEO and co-founder of Kaspersky Lab, said: “Companies shouldn't underestimate global cyber threats. This issue has started to be taken seriously of late, and businesses have begun to worry, leading to increases in the number of IT staff working specifically in IT security (now about 40 per cent of IT staff in companies all around the world).

“However, IT security staff are not always sufficiently trained and competent to protect businesses from the most pertinent threats. This is why our goal, as a leader in the IT security industry, is not only to produce solutions, but also to raise awareness.

“Increasing the level of computer literacy among staff is an essential element of security, while senior management needs to be fully aware of the potential consequences of cyber threats, and understand that reliable protection of the corporate network is vital in ensuring the effective development of a company's IT infrastructure.”