Mark Barlow looks at the steps you can take to ensure that your business is prepared for the threat of cybercrime

Latest research by insurer AVIVA has recently revealed that 21 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have suffered a cyber incident or attack in the past 12 months, yet 34 per cent have no cyber insurance cover. The survey also showed that the most common cyber incidents described by businesses comprised major system failures or outages, theft of funds or phishing, malware infections and ransomware or extortion attempts.

Are small businesses in Sheffield underestimating the threat cybercrime poses to their profitability and corporate reputation?  Sadly, I think the answer is yes, and the problem is here to stay. With all the other pressures of running a business, many owners just don’t have the time to address this real and present danger.

Faced with this growing threat, local businesses can help themselves by adopting some appropriate preventative measures. As with most insurance issues, prevention is better than a cure. Moreover, business owners need more help and a greater understanding of how online security and fraud issues can affect their livelihood.

Many cyber attacks occur because small businesses use the latest technologies, such as mobile devices, tablets, and laptops.  Worryingly many firms are not taking the proper precautions to ensure the information stored on them is protected. There are plenty of steps local firms could be taking to improve security. These include measures such as anti-virus software, firewalls and the encryption of sensitive data.  Many small businesses also run antiquated operating systems, which are often more vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

One of the most obvious concerns for small firms is data hacks from inside the business. It isn’t unusual for criminals to find positions within a business to gain access to client financial information or former employees having knowledge of systems, so different multi-faceted solutions need to be found.

The insurance industry has risen to the challenge of cybercrime by offering a range of policies that mainly cover data breaches rather than hacks that cause physical damage or production delays. Increasingly, businesses are buying specialised cyber risk policies to supplement their existing insurance cover. Affordable cyber risk insurance normally covers the cost of restoring loss to business income or reputation caused by damage to computers and computer networks. Policies usually include assistance with and sometimes the management of the incident itself, which can be essential when faced with reputational damage or regulatory enforcement.

Help is at hand from the insurance industry to help combat the cyber threat to profitability, cash flow and reputation. Importantly improved knowledge and understanding of the threat posed by cybercrime will go a long way when it comes to keeping your business safe online. For any small business being safe against the threat of cybercrime could be the difference between staying solvent or going out of business altogether.