IT security: Have you checked out your staff?

Research has revealed firms are increasing their spend on IT security as companies become more concerned about protecting data, especially against employees

IT security spend continues to rise in the UK despite the ongoing high-tech recession, with companies broadening their strategies to include an oft-neglected area: their staff.

According to research conducted by recruitment outfit Elan, 79 percent of firms have increased their investment in IT protection over the last 12 months.

Seventy percent said they were spending more on firewalls in order to counter the growth in cyber-terrorism. A further 58 percent are protecting document transfer through increased encryption. Businesses are also looking at restricted access, with half of those questioned investing more in password management. Back-up and recovery is also seen as an important area, with 50 percent of companies increasing spend on disaster recovery.

But businesses are now just as security conscious when it comes to recruitment -- references are growing in importance, with 56 percent of companies making more rigorous checks in this area. A further 52 percent are paying closer attention to a candidate's previous job role, and actively checking facts with a job-seeker's last employer.

Regionally, the research shows that Scottish businesses are most concerned with protecting company data, with 95 percent spending more on IT security than last year, compared to 68 percent of companies in the North of England.

The North of England is the most cautious when it comes to potential staff, with 64 percent of companies stating they have become more thorough when validating CVs. The Midlands is the least concerned about this with less than half looking more closely at a candidate's CV.

Kate McClorey, board director at Elan, said: "People are the life-blood of any organisation, and the recent spate of corporate indiscretions have forced businesses to re-evaluate the importance of staff integrity. The reality is that companies are just as vulnerable to employee behaviour as threat from external attack."

She added: "Today it is not enough to ensure that premises and systems are protected -- firms also need a guarantee that potential employees are on the level. References are still the best way of verifying a candidate's claims, and we would encourage employers to contact referees as a matter of course."

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