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out of date software.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.

Nigel Holland from Holland & Co Chartered Accountants said:

“ Many businesses leave themselves open to cyber crime. This is a very serious issue which can cost firms thousands of pounds and could potentially close the business down. It is very important that this problem should not be ignored.

Every business should have a pro active policy of how to deal with cyber crime. Good practice includes training staff on how to prevent cyber crime, regularly changing passwords, keeping software up to date, installing effective anti virus software and using complex passwords.”