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City firms urged to step up IT security

Some of the City of London's best-known and biggest banks and financial services firms may have left themselves wide open to fraud and criminal attack by failing to take the most rudimentary steps to protect their computer networks, a leading IT security firm warned today.

MWR InfoSecurity said spot tests carried out in the City last week revealed that several hundred companies had left themselves vulnerable to cyber attack by failing to protect their wireless internet networks against hackers.

MWR's trials at various locations in the City revealed that using only a basic laptop it was possible to break into the computer networks of at least a third of the businesses in the immediate vicinity because they had no protection stopping external access to their wireless networks, or had barriers in place that were simple to overcome. The vulnerable organisations are likely to include ones with highly confidential data about clients' financial affairs.

Alex Fidgen, MWR's commercial director, also warned that employees logging on to laptops in public internet hotspots don't realise "that it is comparatively easy for a fraudster nearby to use the network to access their machine". This also gives the criminal a point of access to the employer's networks once the laptop is taken back into the office.