Almost half of all UK businesses have suffered a cyber breach or attack in the last 12 months, new government statistics have revealed.

Large companies were a particularly big target, with the ‘Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2017’ revealing that nearly seven in ten large enterprises identified a breach or attack. The average cost to these businesses was £20,000 over this period. In some cases, however, this figure reached millions.

The survey also found that businesses holding electronic personal data about customers were far more likely to suffer breaches than those that don’t, at 51 per cent compared to 37 per cent.

It was discovered that the most common breaches or attacks were via fraudulent emails – which included convincing staff to reveal passwords or financial information, or open dangerous attachments – followed by viruses and malware, such as people impersonating the organisation online and ransomware.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said that these new statistics show businesses across the UK are being “targeted by cyber criminals every day,” adding that the scale and size of the threat is rising, which could damage business’ profits as well as customer confidence.

Almost a quarter of the businesses reporting a breach or attack had a temporary loss of files, while one-fifth had software or systems corrupted. A further one in ten lost access to third party systems they rely on, and one in ten had their website taken down or slowed.

Small businesses are often hit hard by these breaches, with nearly one in five needing a day or more to recover from their most disruptive breach.

Ciaran Martin, chief executive of the National Cyber Security Centre, said: “UK businesses must treat cyber security as a top priority if they want to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the UK’s vibrant digital economy.

“The majority of successful cyber attacks are not that sophisticated but can cause serious commercial damage. By getting the basic defences right, businesses of every size can protect their reputation, finances and operating capabilities.”

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