With news streams regularly warning about the latest cyber threats, from hackers to security bugs such as Heartbleed, it is perhaps no surprise that the UK’s SMEs are becoming increasingly concerned about these issues.

The Zurich SME Risk Index, a survey measuring the perceived level of business risk faced by small and medium businesses in Britain, has risen for the first time in 12 months.

Cyber security concerns are considered to be the major driving force behind this increase. According to the findings, 45% of SME leaders admitted to being worried about their digital channels being compromised – a 12% increase since January 2013.

Besides this, a record-breaking percentage (37%) consider the threat of a cyber-attack as one of the three biggest technology risks to their business, along with data loss and privacy breaches.

Risk management essential

Richard Coleman, Director of SME at Zurich, thinks the increased risk has resulted from positive movements in the UK economy – particularly advancements in mobile technology and web trading opportunities.

He said: “With concern about risk rising amongst SMEs for the first time in 12 months in the wake of a number of high profile security threats, worries about tech vulnerabilities are increasingly an issue for business owners.

“Not only could a hack result in a loss of sensitive data and reputational damage with a business’ customer base, but there is also the possibility of missing out on valuable opportunities for business growth via web trading or taking advantage of mobile technology for payments or remote working.

“This is a great example of an area where business owners should be making sure their risk management follows these exciting new innovation possibilities.”

The latest risk index also revealed that 50% of SMEs are concerned about business regulation and compliance. Other aspects covered included workforce challenges (44% – an 11% increase on last year) and key person dependency (40% – a 13% increase on last year).