Technology poses a huge variety of risks to companies, a number of groups have warned.

The Association of Insurance and Risk Managers (Airmic) conference heard last week that the rush into e-commerce had created grave new areas of risk, but that it was impossible to obtain adequate insurance to cover them.

Meanwhile, Pricewaterhouse-coopers (PWC) has launched an internet misuse service because of the risks arising from employees' misuse of the internet and company email systems.

Neal Ysart, who will spearhead PWC's new service, said the risks ranged from serious criminal offences such as publishing pornography through to time wasted by surfing the net.

At the conference, a survey of Airmic's e-commerce special interest group's members also identified reputational and intellectual property loss and fraud as key potential risks arising from e-commerce.

But risk managers who responded to the survey said that neither employees nor management boards understood the risks.

Group chairman Stuart Martin said Airmic members believed all sectors of business could benefit from e-commerce, but a great deal of work was needed before all IT users and their bosses were aware of the dangers involved.

“There's also a belief that the insurance market doesn't fully understand the risks, which is backed by the contention from our members that they're unable to obtain adequate insurance cover for them,” he said.

More than three-quarters of the survey respondents said they would like to see more legislation governing e-commerce.

“We'd like to see movement towards the development of criminal and civil laws, giving both the company and police the ability to prosecute or obtain compensation with respect to hackers, corporate espionage or fraud,” Martin said.

“Along with this, there should be co-ordination of international law, especially dealing with products or services that may be considered offensive in some countries.”

Ysart added: “The dangers companies face from internet misuse by employees are increasing, under the impact of technological advances, the need to tread the tightrope of human rights legislation and the growing tendency for employees to use litigation against their employers,” he said.