Many small and medium-sized businesses ignore or underestimate the threat online fraud poses to their profitability, cashflow and reputation, according to a panel of experts brought together by the government on cyber fraud.
The Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy, Ed Vaizey, invited experts from government and industry to join a small business round table, to create an easy to understand action plan that will help small firms combat cyber crime.
The round table marked the new phase of the Government’s Cyber Streetwise campaign, which focuses on helping small business owners protect themselves against cyber threats.
Some of the recommendations that the group of experts for all small and medium-sized businesses include:
- Educating and training staff about cyber threats
- Keeping computers and software secure by always installing updates and using up-to-date anti-virus software
- Using complex passwords that include a symbol and is made up of a minimum of 3 words.
Minister for the Digital Economy Ed Vaizey said:
“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.”
Some of the most common problems faced by business include staff exposing IT systems to malware by using external devices and USB devices on the network, opening malicious emails or using unsafe websites.
In order to help businesses boost their cyber security, up to £5,000 in vouchers can be claimed invested in improving cyber security from the Cyber Security Innovation Vouchers scheme. Businesses can also join the Cyber Essentials scheme which helps firms protect themselves against cyber threats and awards a badge that demonstrates they meet government and industry-endorsed criteria.
Research has found that 60% of small businesses suffered a malicious breach in the past year and half of them had a serious incident. The worst breaches disrupted operations for small businesses for an average of 7 to 10 days.
The CEO of IASME, Emma Philpott, said:
“Many businesses simply don’t realise they are at risk and assume cyber criminals are only targeting banks or large online retailers.
The reality is that all businesses are interesting to cyber criminals and if you’re online in any way, you are a target. Cyber Streetwise is a great place to get quick, bite-size, non-techy advice on keeping the cyber criminals at bay.”
John Allan, National Chairman, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), added:
“Many small businesses will be taking steps to protect themselves but many others have not recognised the increasing threat and have neither adopted technologies nor strategies to defend against cyber crime. For those that don’t, the cost of cyber crime can be a barrier for growth and in the worst cases, can put a firm out of business.”
“While we welcome action from the government and the wider public sector, there are clear actions that businesses can take to educate and help themselves to counteract cyber crime. The FSB would strongly encourage them to do so.”