Executives and corporate boards need to be vigilant about the threats posed by a global organized crime industry that has the capacity to "bring down firms at will," according to IT security industry insiders.

Speaking at the recent Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) annual conference in London, DK Matai, chairman of online security firm mi2g, warned that businesses of every size are at risk from the activities of cyber criminals, including digital fraud and extortion.

He added that, while the audit process can effectively identify financial risks, it cannot help companies cope with the dangers posed by global organized crime. According to Matai, worldwide organized crime is estimated to have a gross annual profit of between $1.25 trillion and $1.5 trillion - roughly equivalent to the gross domestic product of the UK.

Matai went on to quote the latest research conducted by his company, which warns there is a growing requirement for governmental intervention to protect economic targets in the face of an almost doubling of hacking incidents every three months.

"With as much as 25 percent of organized criminal activity operating behind the safety of a nominally legal business, and identity theft, denial of service, phishing scams and credit card fraud all rising, cybercrime is an issue with the potential to affect businesses of every size," said Matai.

"That means criminal and extremist groups have the capacity to bring a small, medium or large business down at their will and boards need to beware."