Fifth of British businesses hacked by cyber criminals

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United Kingdom businesses are becoming increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks, with as many as 20% having fallen victim over the last 12 months.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) revealed the findings from its survey of almost 1,300 businesspeople across the United Kingdom, saying that 42 per cent of companies with more than 100 staff reported being victims of attacks.

While data breaches at web giant Yahoo, telecoms firm TalkTalk and the dating website Ashley Madison have hit the headlines in recent years, the survey by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) shows how problem is worryingly widespread.

Larger companies, defined as those with at least 100 staff, are more susceptible to cyber attacks, according to the survey of 1,200 businesses by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).

Adam Marshall, the BCC's director-general said firms need to be "pro-active" and defend themselves against cyber-security breaches, but at the same time, the BCC called upon the government and police to give more guidance about where and how to report attacks.

In spite of this, the BCC said only a quarter of businesses have cyber security accreditations in place, with smaller firms much less likely, at 10 per cent of sole traders, for example, than big businesses (47 per cent for organisations with more than 100 employees).

The lobby group also found that firms depend most on IT providers (63 per cent) to resolve issues after an attack, as opposed to banks and financial institutions (12 per cent) or police and law enforcement (2 per cent). "It can also increase confidence among the businesses and clients who they engage with online", Marshall said.

Businesses are being urged to tighten up their online security, as a new survey by management consultancy Oliver Wyman revealed that 43 per cent of consumers are concerned about cyber crime.

Its report found 42% of larger firms had been the victim of a cyber attack, compared with 18% of smaller ones.

"Businesses should also be mindful of the extension to data protection regulation coming into force next year, which will increase their responsibilities and requirements to protect personal data".

'Firms that don't adopt the appropriate protections leave themselves open to tough penalties.