SMEs at risk of cyber crime

10 June, 2010

IT budgets are dwindling and internet security threats are growing, leaving an increasing number of small and medium firms at risk  of cyber crimes. These are the findings of a new study conducted by internet security firm Symantec.

The survey found that 56 percent of Australian SMEs have been affected by a cyber threat in the last year, a figure which has risen by ten percent since 2008. The survey also found that 31 percent of people believe social networks are a likely security risk and many see mobile devices as a threat to business.

According to Symantec the rising threats are the result of the continued growth and complexity of cybercrime attacks, combined with a decline in IT budgets and reductions in the number of businesses that have policies to guide staff on safe internet security practices.

The impact of the global financial crisis on company revenues may have led businesses to reduce the priority placed on security and data protection - according to the study the average business is now spending $10,000 less a year on IT security. Malicious software created by cybercriminals is the biggest worry for firms, with 52 percent indicating malware was the most likely security threat to their business.

"The survey findings suggest that SMEs have relaxed their defences at a time when cybercriminal activity has become more prevalent," Symantec's director Steve Martin says.

"Only six percent of the firms surveyed that have internet security software are keeping the software up-to-date - SMEs need to invest in internet security solutions and upgrade to prevent these threats.

"Education is equally important. SMEs need to educate their staff about what is and what isn't safe to do."

Symantec identified more than 240 million distinct new malicious programs globally in 2009, double the number found in 2008.

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