Global companies may have lost over US$1 trillion worth of intellectual property last year owing to data theft, according to new research from McAfee presented today at the World Economic Forum.
Respondents to the study indicated that they lost a combined US$4.6 billion worth of intellectual property last year, and spent around US$600 million repairing damage from data breaches.
McAfee projected that this total loss would exceed US$1 trillion worldwide if replicated across all global firms.
The security firm surveyed over 800 chief information officers in the US, UK, China and India for its report.
Many of the organisations surveyed expressed fears about the knock-on effects of the current financial crisis.
Some 39 per cent of respondents believe that vital information is more vulnerable in the current climate than ever before, and over a third identified their biggest concern as protecting intellectual property from external data thieves.
Meanwhile, 42 per cent of respondents said that employees recently made redundant represent the biggest threat caused by the economic downturn.
McAfee security analyst Greg Day argued that many firms look to offshoring in order to reduce costs without thinking of the security implications of their intellectual property being stored or processed in other regions.
The research found that Brazil, China and India, for example, are spending more money on security than Germany, the UK, the US and Japan, but that some of the former countries have poor reputations for investigating security incidents, and may be lax at enforcing policies and regulations.
"We are all looking to outsource to reduce costs, but often we look at this with a blinkered view," said Day.
"This report is trying to bring a security perspective so that, if you offshore to India, you think of the security implications. How much they are they investing in IT security, and how likely they are to follow up on a data breach?"