There are massive opportunities for business that take advantage of this in the right way, however it seems that across the UK there is a digital divide amongst small and medium sized businesses.Although the majority of SMEs (78 per cent)1 say they understand the online threats to their businesses, over half (54 per cent) don’t regularly monitor their IT systems for breaches. The issue of cyber security is also relatively low on the boardroom agenda with over half of leaders saying that other matters always seem more urgent. With stories about big, elaborate cyber attacks hitting the headlines on a weekly basis, it seems that there is a common belief amongst SMEs that they are too small to be targeted or that techniques are so advanced that cyber crime is simply unavoidable. But this isn’t the case. “It is easy to get hung up on speculation about high-end threats and nasty, supposedly unblockable attacks on big business infrastructure” explains security expert James Lyne. “However, in reality the majority of cyber crime relies on both consumers and small businesses failing to do the basics well. Small firms who don’t employ basic security measures are making it easy for the attackers to silently install malicious code on the system without permission, meaning that high-end clever attacks aren’t typically required to succeed.” But why is this important? First of all there is the potential financial impact – data shows that the worst online security breaches faced by small businesses over the past year cost an average of between £35,000 and £65,0002. However it’s also important to consider the longer-term reputational damage that cyber security problems can cause. Over 80 per cent of consumers would buy more online from SMEs if they were better at showing how well protected they are from cyber crime and 92 per cent would avoid a small company that hadn’t protected itself adequately. And this doesn’t just apply to consumer-facing businesses. More than three quarters4 of procurement managers at big businesses require smaller suppliers to prove their cyber security credentials before selecting them, and a huge 95 per cent would avoid a small firm they knew had failed to protect itself from cyber crime. One business that fell victim to a cyber attack is Igloo Music, run by Dielle Hannah in Hampshire. The music club suffered reputational damage after its website was attacked by a re-direct virus and was flagged by Google to be distributing malware. The problem took a lot of time and thousands of pounds to correct and a complete rebuild of the website resulted in Dielle losing invaluable information – two years worth of blog posts and journals put together by her students. “We believed that our web designer had made the website completely secure, but this wasn’t the case” she says. “I also didn’t think that we’d be a target because the website was purely for information – there was no e-commerce function and no money to be made by targeting it. “The problems did huge damage to our brand, cost us a lot to fix and I lost earnings spending time trying to rectify the problem rather than spending time with clients.” Dielle now has a secure website and expert help she can draw on for advice and recommends making cyber security a primary focus when doing any business online. With the right guidance, improving cyber security can be cheap, quick and easy for small companies. To support UK businesses the government has created Cyber Streetwise, an online resource to give small business leaders the essential advice to make their businesses safe online. Here are five simple steps every business should take immediately to improve their online lives: 1. Install and always update antivirus and firewall software to protect your business and customer information 2. Use complex passwords for IT systems, computers and devices in the workplace 3. Ensure no-one in the business downloads something if they don’t know its origin 4. Delete suspicious emails before opening them 5. Review what important information your business holds and whether it’s adequately protected For advice and guidance on keeping your business safe visit Cyber Streetwise.
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