Critical infrastructure such as energy, pharmaceutical and government assets is the most likely targets for cyber criminals.

According to ScanSafe's Annual Global Threat Report based on an analysis of more than a trillion web requests processed in 2009, it found that organisations that harness the most valuable intellectual data are encountering web malware with much greater frequency than other verticals.

It found that energy and oil have a 356 per cent rate of direct encounters with data theft Trojans, while pharmaceutical and chemical industries had a 322 per cent rate.

Mary Landesman, senior security researcher at ScanSafe, said: “There is a misconception that cyber criminals are only intent on stealing data intended for credit card fraud and identity theft. In reality, cyber criminals are casting a much wider net.

“Consumer credit card details are child's play compared to the value of infrastructure and intellectual data from these sensitive verticals. The message is clear – cyber war is already here. The web is the battlefield and the enterprise is on the frontlines.”

The report also found that web-delivered malware more than doubled through the course of 2009, from an average  eight web malware encounters experienced by enterprises each day to 19 encounters per day.

It said that 23 per cent of those encounters were with zero day malware undetectable by signature-based methodologies, and 19 per cent were direct encounters with data theft Trojans.

Landesman said: “To confront the challenges of the coming years, we must reposition our thinking to match the new reality. We must forgo our perceived familiarities and see the issues that are already at hand – the criminal business of data harvesting.

“Our defences must extend beyond the confines of brick and mortar and into the cloud to ensure end-to-end protection of our most sensitive assets and people, regardless of operating system, device or geo-locale.”