Viewpoint | 12 Mar 2021

Protecting small businesses against cyber threats is a matter of ‘national economic resilience’

Anne Sheehan, Director, Vodafone Business UK, believes cybersecurity is just as much an issue for small companies as it is for big companies, and that Government cyber policies should reflect this.

Our new research report – Protecting our SMEs: Cybersecurity in the new world of work – reveals some stark findings about the near six million small businesses that form the bedrock of the UK economy.

A worrying number – 1.3 million – say they wouldn’t be able to continue operating if they were the victim of a successful cyber-attack. And yet nearly a third of SMEs [Small and Medium-sized Enterprises] report seeing a rise in the number of attacks during the pandemic.

Given that cyber-attacks were estimated to be costing the UK economy £34bn before COVID struck, we can assume this cost is even higher now. So this is a matter of national economic importance.

We have a fantastic cybersecurity industry and our National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) works really well with the private sector. Yet we think the Government could give SMEs more incentives to protect themselves against this growing cyber threat. And we all need to help raise awareness of the risks SMEs face and what they can do about it.

It’s a concern that only 35% of SMEs have basic cybersecurity protections in place, so one practical suggestion we have is that the Government should reduce VAT on cybersecurity products to 5%, making them more affordable and incentivising take-up.

Our report also recommends that:

• the next National Cyber Security Strategy should include a section on SME protection, given that remote working poses extra risks;

• the Government should consider additional funding for the NCSC to expand a dedicated unit for cybersecurity for business;

• the Government should commit an additional 5% to the National Cyber Security Strategy budget to support the delivery of local cybersecurity skills and training;

• and that we should invest more in cybersecurity product development.

We’ve been really impressed with the Government’s support for small business so far. The furlough scheme has been the lifeblood of many families during this difficult period, while grants and loans have given a much-needed financial injection for thousands of firms.

We just think they need extra help when it comes to cybersecurity, too.

As Simon Fell, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cybersecurity, said: “This new report from Vodafone shows that businesses often lack awareness of the cybersecurity risks they face, the protection they need to mitigate them, and the resources to withstand them.”

He also pointed out that this is an issue of “national economic resilience”, and I couldn’t agree more.

Our cybersecurity report and policy recommendations are a chance for Vodafone to act as a voice for UK small business and to amplify the good work that is already being done by Government, the NCSC and others.

None of us wants to see small businesses fail because of cyber-attacks that could have been successfully repelled with the right cyber protections in place.

Small firms are a vital component of the UK economy, responsible for roughly 60% of UK employment.

We want them all to be safe and successful.

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