Small Businesses Underestimating Cyber Threat

Minister Warns Damage Can Be Greater Than Thought


Fergal Dowling, Partner | +44 (0)121 214 5476

SMEs are still failing to appreciate how serious online crime is and what threat it poses, a government minister has said.

Minister for culture and the digital economy Ed Vaizey warned at the Cyber Streetwise event last week that risks are often overlooked by SMEs.

He 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."

The event, which brought together the government with industry and experts in cyber security, sought to focus on the need for smaller firms to understand the dangers - and what steps they can take to deal with them.

Mr Vaizey said the government's National Cyber Security Programme is designed to make the UK the safest place to do business online.

"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," he remarked.

The experts involved in the event issued a series of recommendations for small firms, which include training staff to make sure they understand cyber threats, installing anti-virus software, keeping the current software secure with regular updates and making sure passwords are too complex for cyber criminals to guess easily, with best practice being to use three words and a symbol.

Dealing with cyber crime is not just about avoiding the negative effects of being attacked by hackers, however; the panel also noted secure firms can gain more custom. It pointed to recent research showing that while 59 per cent of consumers are deterred from online shopping by cyber-crime, 82 per cent would use such services more if firms could show they were secure.

While these benefits can be gained by secure firms, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses John Allan issued a dire warning for firms that ignore the issue, saying that in the "worst cases", companies can actually be put out of business by cyber-crime.

Expert Opinion
It is vital that SMEs do not ignore the dangers of online crime. It will not go away and if anything the chances of being caught out are getting higher all the time for those that do nothing.

“The financial costs can be considerable, as can be the reputational ones, and it is vital that SMEs do not ignore the dangers. Many think that cyber-crime targets just large organisations, but this is simply not the case.

“SMEs can take steps to mitigate the risks such as using complex passwords and having the latest security software. Those businesses that deal with the issue effectively are not only likely to be safer, they will most likely win and retain business more easily.”
Fergal Dowling, Partner