Leaders of a cross-government campaign are calling on UK SMEs to take the threat of cyber crime seriously following an upsurge in the number of online fraud cases. Led by the Home Office, Cyber Streetwise was established with a mandate to improve the online safety behaviour of consumers and small businesses.

The prevalence of recent internet scams has exposed the nation’s SMEs as being more vulnerable to attack than ever.

New findings from Financial Fraud Action UK highlight invoice fraud as an increasing issue for small firms. This scam involves businesses receiving false requests for payment. A lack of basic understanding about internet security is also resulting in more companies being exposed to malware.

How can SMEs combat the threat of internet fraud?

Cyber Streetwise has recommended the following four measures for small businesses wanting to protect themselves from the ever-increasing risk of cyber crime.

1. Check that your staff understand cyber threats and carry out training to highlight the importance of internet security.
2. Always install updates to ensure your software is secure and not vulnerable to viruses.
3. Install anti-virus software and carry out regular system scans.
4. Use complex passwords comprising of a mixture of numbers, letter cases and special characters.

If your company is unfortunate enough to be targeted, you’ll want to be protected with business interruption insurance.

Plans to help small businesses become more secure online

Ed Vaizey, Minister for the Digital Economy who has got the ball rolling on setting up a ‘roundtable’ of experts to spearhead improvements in cyber security for SMEs, 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.

Frank Gilbert, Systems Administrator at Axis Electronics, provided a perspective from the business side, saying: “We’ve found that a few simple changes in cyber security practices really can have a big effect on the business – and I’d encourage others to follow suit.

“It’s essential that our customers have trust in us, and our ability to keep their information safe. If our systems were breached, not only would there be an immediate financial implication to resolve the issue, but our customers would lose confidence in us. That would affect the business for months and years to come.”