The survey by Barclaycard of over 250 small businesses found that just one in five (20 per cent) rank cyber security as a top business priority, despite previous government research having found that the average cyber attack on a small business costs between £75,000 and £311,000, including lost sales, business disruption and compensation payouts.
Many small businesses should arguably know better, with just under half (48 per cent) of those questioned by Barclaycard saying that they had been the subject of at least one cyber attack in the past year, and one in ten (10 per cent) having been the victim of more than four attacks. Meanwhile, 54 per cent are concerned they could be at risk of an attack.
Small firms are also not prescribing to the dictum of prevention being better than cure, with 16 per cent confessing that they only reviewed their cyber security system after they fell victim to an attack.
"Businesses of all sizes face a constant and growing threat from cybercrime," said Paul Clarke, product director at Barclaycard. "As our research shows, many small businesses are failing take the necessary precautions, either because they don’t know how to protect themselves or, more worryingly, because they don’t think they need to."
The lack of preparation among smaller businesses might be down to lack of expertise. The survey found that although 44 per cent of SMEs said that the responsibility for protecting their business from online threats lay with them personally, just 13 per cent said that they were confident that their knowledge of cyber security was enough to keep their business safe and only 15 per cent were very confident that they had adequate measures in place.
Clarke continued: "Cybersecurity is not a one-off investment that can then be forgotten about, especially as criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated in the way they target businesses. For 50 years we’ve been working in partnership with customers to ensure they are not only putting the right measures in place from the outset, but are also continuously reviewing their policies to keep up with the latest industry developments."
Barclaycard's research is a stark contrast to a study released last week by the Federation of Small Businesses, which found that more than nine out of ten (93 per cent) of small firms had taken steps to protect themselves from cyber crime, with four out of five (80 per cent) using computer security software and more than half (53 per cent) carrying out regular updates on their IT systems.