Small and medium-sized businesses are being urged to become more proactive in protecting themselves against online fraud.
Research has revealed that 60 per cent of small businesses suffered a malicious breach in the past year and half had a serious incident. The worst breaches disrupted operations for small businesses for an average of seven to ten days.
To highlight the problem, a panel of specialists from government and industry have created a straightforward action plan as part of the Cyber Streetwise campaign, which focuses on helping small business owners protect themselves against cyber threats.
Stepping up cyber security could have a positive impact on business growth with recent research finding that while 59 per cent of consumers are put off shopping with small firms online, 82 per cent would buy more if businesses could show they were protected from cyber crime.
The panel has recommended that all small and medium-sized businesses should:
- train staff to understand cyber threats
- keep software secure by always installing updates
- install and use anti-virus software
- use complex passwords that include a minimum of three words and a symbol.
Minister for the Digital Economy Ed Vaizey said on 22 October: “Small businesses are driving economic growth here in the UK but remain particularly vulnerable to cyber security breaches that can result in hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage.
“That is why government and industry partners are working to make the UK one of the safest places to do business online through our National Cyber Security Programme. A crucial part of this programme is building awareness of cyber threats amongst our small firms, and the Cyber Streetwise campaign is doing just that. It provides clear and easy to follow guidance to help small and medium-sized companies protect themselves from online criminal activity.”
To boost their cyber security credentials firms can join the new Cyber Essentials scheme, which helps businesses protect themselves against cyber threats and awards them a badge to demonstrate they meet government and industry-endorsed criteria.
The government says the most common problems faced by businesses include staff exposing IT systems to malware by plugging in external devices and USB sticks, opening infected emails or using unsafe websites with malicious code. Poor device passwords and out-of-date software also leave firms vulnerable.