Hiscox has warned that major companies are failing to take the danger posed by hackers seriously.

The warning came as statistics collated by NOP showed that 167 UK companies wrote off a total of £143m in the past year as a result of disruption caused by hackers.

Hiscox deputy underwriter Stephen Wares said that many companies failed to spend the time and resources necessary to tackle the problem of hackers.

"It's vital that we create a recognition of these risks at boardroom level," Wares said.

"It won't be taken seriously until it becomes a corporate governance issue."

Wares added that it might take a major company to go out of business as a result of a hacker before companies realise the full extent of the potential risks.

"It could take a shareholder action against a company for directors to sit up and take notice," Wares said.

"There is a reluctance to accept [hackers] as a new risk that you need to spend hard cash on."

The National Hi-Tech Crime Unit was scheduled to stage a two-day "e-crime congress" this week to raise awareness of the threat posed by hackers.