The spread of computers into even the smallest offices and workplaces has left small businesses more exposed than ever to the threat of viruses and hackers, a financial services firm has warned.
Cash flow specialist Bibby Financial Services said small businesses risk massive disruption to their operations, either because they are ignorant about the threat or complacent about the need for security.
The UK’s small business community is now almost universally IT literate, with more than eight out of 10 business owners and managers using computers to carry out their daily work.
A further 78 per cent had Internet access, more than half had set up a company website to promote their business and a nearly a third traded online.
Yet a significant minority, 12 per cent, had no anti-virus software in place to protect their files and data.
This is despite the fact that more than one in four country’s small firms have been affected by a computer virus at some time, said Bibby.
It is estimated cyber crime costs Europe’s small businesses some £14.7 billion to clean up and recover, with virus outbreaks alone costing on average more than £3,400 per firm to resolve.
Bibby Financial Services chief executive David Robertson said: “It is disappointing that while small firms are willing to invest in new technology a significant minority are still unaware of how vulnerable access to the internet can leave them.
”Technology is developing rapidly and the techniques used to infiltrate malicious software onto machines are becoming increasingly sophisticated.
“Purchasing the latest state-of-the-art laptop or connecting to broadband is not enough, business owners and managers need to put IT security at the top of their business agenda,” he added.