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Cybercriminals infiltrating U.K. companies

Businesses need to screen potential employees more carefully, report says.

Criminal gangs in Britain are increasingly attempting to plant insiders in companies to steal data and aid cybercrime attacks.

According to a report published Friday by the Financial Services Authority--an independent body that regulates the financial services industry in the United Kingdom--this practice is set to rise and businesses need to screen potential staff more carefully.

"Hackers and fraudsters are refining and improving their techniques as we speak," said Philip Robinson, financial crime sector leader at the FSA. "Firms will have to run to stand still if they are to protect their assets and those of their customers. The major banks tend to have strong defenses in place, but there is no room for complacency, and criminals will seek to exploit vulnerable points where they can find them, including in other sectors or smaller firms."

The FSA said that while larger companies have measures in place to protect against hacking threats, small- to medium-size businesses were likely to suffer due to a lack of preparation.

The report, called Countering Financial Crime Risks in Information Security, found that companies had suffered few financial losses through cybercrime, but that they could be doing more to prevent attacks. The report, which reviewed 18 U.K. companies, also recommended that managers take responsibility for securing data and examining current attack trends.

"Consumers must take steps to prevent attacks from fraudsters by taking care when disclosing their personal details or following the security tips offered by their online banking service," Robinson said.

The FSA said businesses aren't spending enough on security, which includes a failure to spend enough on modifying legacy systems to improve their security. It also criticized companies for failing to build relations with government bodies, which it said were working to reduce financial crime.

Dan Ilett of ZDNet UK reported from London.