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The number of UK businesses succumbing to cyber attacks has doubled in the last five years, with the sharpest spike in victim rates coming in the small-business community, according to Beaming, the Sussex-based business ISP.
Beaming’s five-year cyber security study, details of which were published in its Five Years in Cyber Security report, suggests that a quarter of UK businesses were victims of cyber criminals in 2019. This equates to 1.5 million businesses, up from 755,000 in 2015.
In every year of Beaming’s study, large companies were most at risk, culminating last year with nine out of 10 falling victim. Small businesses experienced the steepest rise in victim rates: 28% of 11-50 person firms were hit in 2015, rising steeply to 62% last year.
The total cost of cyber security breaches over the last five years - including damaged assets, financial penalties and lost productivity - is believed to be more than £87 billion.
Sonia Blizzard, managing director of Beaming, comments: “Small businesses are now on the front line in the war against cybercrime. But they haven’t invested in cyber security or employee education at the same rate as their larger counterparts, and they are easier targets as a result.”
Cyber security trends identified through Beaming’s study
Over the past five years larger companies were consistently breached at a higher rate than smaller businesses. The risk of becoming a victim increases by more than 60% when a company hires its first employees.
Concern about cyber-crime has grown among senior business leaders over the last five years. More than fifth of small (20%), medium (24%) and large companies (36%) now discuss a range of cyber threats at board level.
Malware continues to be the biggest concern for business leaders, with 45% now taking additional measures to combat it (compared to 26% in 2015). Hacking and password attacks, where criminals use scripts that try a wide range of possible password combinations, were also big concerns for leaders.
Phishing is now the type of attack most likely to hit businesses. In 2019, Phishing was the most common form of successful attack on every size of business - with the exception of micro companies, where 1% more fell victim to malware (although in 2018 phishing was also by far the biggest threat to micros too). The proportion of businesses hit by phishing attacks grew by 50% in five years, from 6% in 2015 to 9% in 2019.
Staff members were responsible - either through malicious intent, neglect or genuine mistakes - for breaches in more than a third of cases. Business leaders held employees accountable for 37% of breaches in 2015, and 36% in 2019.
Beaming’s research indicates that almost two-thirds of UK businesses have minimal levels of cyber security defences in place, relying on anti-virus software and basic router protection to keep them safe. 69% of micro businesses and 58% of small companies were in this situation at the start of 2020.
Sonia Blizzard, CEO of Beaming
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