The economic downturn will lead to an increase in internal IT security threats, according to research from software giant Microsoft.

The number of “insider” security attacks from disgruntled and laid-off employees is likely to increase during the economic downturn of 2009, posing a real threat to businesses around the world.

Whilst most businesses focus heavily on antivirus software as a means protecting themselves from the threats posed by external sources, such as viruses, adware and spyware, it is believed that internal threats pose a far more significant risk.

With employees having greater access to systems and knowledge of the company’s internal workings and procedures, the ability to utilise corporate assets and information is vastly increased and Microsoft are warning businesses to make sure that their internal IT security procedures are sound.

“With 1.5 million predicted job losses in the US alone, there’s an increased risk and exposure to these attacks,” Microsoft’s Doug Leland told the BBC.

“This is one of the most significant threats companies face.

“The malicious insider is classed as the greatest security concern because they have access, and relatively easy access, to corporate assets,” he added.

Top Tips for improving your internal IT security.

  • Ensure that all employees are aware of the company’s IT policies.
  • Password protect sensitive documents, software or systems.
  • Ensure that secure passwords are used on every workstation within the business, as well as every network.
  • Destroy any sensitive documents or materials. This includes shredding sensitive documents or destroying any CD-ROM’s or unused hard disk drives.
  • Use permission settings to limit access to particular systems or documents.
  • Encourage greater care of laptop computers within the business, particularly when they are taken away from the premises.
  • Limit the use of personal computer equipment and external devices, such as USB flash drives which may be infected with malicious software.
  • Enforce physical security measures in and around your company premises, such as employee access / ID cards.

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