By Michael Moore
Many of the U.K.'s small businesses are putting themselves at risk from cyber-attacks due to lax or insufficient online security, research has found.
A report from government security initiative Cyber Streetwise discovered that a shocking amount of small and midsize businesses (SMBs) didn't think they were at risk, despite a number of big-name data breaches and cyber-attacks in recent months.
Overall, 66 percent of SMBs said that they didn't believe their business to be vulnerable, and just 16 percent said that improving their cyber-security was a top priority for 2015.
Nearly a quarter (24 percent) thought that cyber-security is too expensive, and 22 percent say they "don't know where to start", the survey of over a thousand British SMBs found.
"Businesses can do more to understand and respond to cyber-threats" said Culture and Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey. "There are some simple steps firms can take to protect themselves, their cash flow and their data. Small and midsize firms are a key part of our long-term economic plan to back business, create jobs and secure a brighter future for Britain."
The Cyber Streetwise campaign was launched last year, with the aim of changing the way people view online safety.
The survey also questioned SMBs on some of the most common misconceptions around staying safe online, and found a major knowledge gap, as more than three-quarters (78 per cent) of businesses believed at least one.
This included 26 percent of respondents thinking that only companies that take payments online were at risk of cyber-crime, and 22 percent believing that small companies aren't a target for hackers.
The government estimates that a third of SMBs suffered a cyber-attack from someone outside their business in 2014. The average cost of a major security breach is £65,000 to £115,000, which for many of the SMBs questioned was around a third of their total revenue for the year, and can put a business out of action for up to 10 days.
"We know from our own research that in the future small businesses expect to become much more dependent on Web-based tools," said John Allan, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses. "We also know that, as firms' reliance on tools like cloud computing increases, they also become more aware of the threats these services can pose.
"We need to give these businesses the knowledge and tools they require to prevent this from happening, and so help the continued take-up of these productivity-enhancing technologies."