Vodafone calls for cybersecurity policies to support the recovery of SMEs

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Vodafone is calling on the government to support the pandemic recovery of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by introducing new cybersecurity policies.

According to a report (PDF) commissioned by Vodafone and published today, almost a quarter of SMEs – representing around 1.3 million businesses – claim they would not be able to continue operating following a cyberattack.

The report’s findings show how many SMEs have been left teetering following the pandemic.

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.

This report’s stark 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 Government does more to support them to do so.

The UK needs successful, resilient small businesses.”

Aside from the direct cost of suffering loss and repairing damage caused by a cyberattack, any resulting data breaches can lead to hefty fines and long-term damage due to a lack of trust from current and even potential future customers.

The average cost of a successful cyberattack is £3,230.

23 percent of the surveyed SMEs said the average cyberattack cost would destroy their business. Another 16 percent said that it would likely mean having to lay-off staff. 23 percent said that it would likely mean having to use up their financial reserves.

Just 22 percent of the SMEs reported a loss of that size would not have a material impact on their business.

Cyberattack attempts are growing in prevalence which makes it vital that businesses of all sizes protect themselves. 31 percent of businesses report seeing an increase in cyberattacks since the UK went into lockdown in March 2020.

Simon Fell, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cybersecurity, commented:

“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 a prosaic issue facing a few journeymen trying their hands at a new business during the pandemic, but rather an issue of national economic resilience.”

Investments can be hard to justify following an economic shock like the pandemic, but not making them in vital areas such as cybersecurity can have fatal consequences for a business. 

Vodafone makes several government policy recommendations to help ensure SMEs can access the protection they need at a minimal cost:

  • Introduce a reduced five percent VAT rate on cybersecurity products.
  • Commit additional resources to the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) to further protect SMEs—including an additional five percent to its budget.
  • Increase R&D budget for cybersecurity product development in research centres in the North and Midlands.
  • Include a section on SME protection in the next National Cyber Security Strategy.

Over 4 in 10 SMEs (41%) have experienced a cyberattack within the past 12 months. 20 percent even report being targeted on six or more occasions.

The policy recommendations made by Vodafone will be key to ensuring SMEs can bounce back from the pandemic without fear of cyberattack resulting in further job losses or putting them out of business entirely.

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