SMEs warned about cyber threats

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) should do more to protect themselves against online fraud and IT security risks, a panel of experts has said.

Experts from government and industry have created a simple action plan for SMEs as part of the Cyber Streetwise campaign, which raises awareness about the importance of cyber security to SMEs and consumers.

The experts recommend that SMEs:

  • train staff to understand and prevent cyber threats
  • ensure software is secure by installing updates
  • install and use anti-virus software
  • create complex passwords using 3 words and at least 1 symbol.

In the last 12 months, 60% of SMEs have suffered an online security breach, the worst of which disrupt operations for an average of 7-10 days. Problems are commonly caused by:

  • staff using external devices and USB sticks that can carry malicious software
  • opening infected emails or using unsafe websites
  • poor device passwords
  • out of date software.

Small firms can apply for government vouchers worth up to £5,000 to spend on cyber security improvement advice.

John Allan, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said:

"Cyber crime poses a real and growing threat for small firms and it isn't something that should be ignored.

"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."

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