Vodafone is calling on the British government to support the pandemic recovery of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by introducing new cybersecurity policies.
A report published recently titled: ‘Protecting our SMEs: Cybersecurity in the new world of work’, said that the UK’s economic recovery from COVID-19 is at risk if new policy recommendations are not introduced in line with the evolving risks that have emerged in the last 12 months.
Anne Sheehan, Business Director at Vodafone UK, said: “Cyberattacks are an existential threat to Britain’s small businesses, yet nearly a third have no cybersecurity strategy in place.”
The report’s findings are a warning that as SMEs do more and more of their business online, it is vital that they take the steps they need to keep themselves safe – and that the government does more to support them to do so.
According to the Federation of Small Businesses, SMEs account for 99.9 percent of the UK’s six million private sector businesses. This means they employ three fifths of the UK’s workforce. The policy recommendations would provide much-needed support for a critical component of the UK economy.
While much has already been done to support the development of the cybersecurity segment in the UK, Vodafone believes the next step should be to create policy that supports SMEs directly. As the risks are constantly evolving, Government policy for cybersecurity should also.
The report makes the case for several policy recommendations, including a reduced 5 percent VAT rate on cybersecurity products, as well as additional investment and resources for the National Cyber Security Centre to expand a dedicated unit for cybersecurity for business to help secure recovery for SMEs.
Vodafone believes the positive relationship between the National Cyber Security Centre and private industry has led to the UK having a world-leading cybersecurity industry. The expansion of an SME-dedicated unit would build on these foundations, enabling small businesses to further enjoy the benefits of this leadership position.
The recommendations were prompted by polling for the report which found that 1.3 million SMEs in the UK would collapse if they fell victim to a cyber-attack. A successful cyber-attack has an average cost of £3,230; 23 percent of SMEs polled said that they could not survive a loss of this scale.
Pre-COVID-19, cyber-attacks cost the UK economy £34bn a year. But this report finds that almost a third of SMEs (31 percent) have seen an increase in attacks since the beginning of the first lockdown in March 2020 – so this figure may now be even higher.
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.
SME cybersecurity is not an average issue facing a few journeymen trying their hands at a new business during the pandemic, but rather an issue of national economic resilience.