UK SMEs overlook security in push for Cyber Monday sales

UK SMEs have spent an estimated £1.6bn gearing up for Cyber Monday online sales, but many have overlooked security, a study shows

Three-quarters of UK small-and-medium-sized businesses (SMEs) have spent an estimated £1.6bn gearing up for Cyber Monday online sales, but many have overlooked security, a study has revealed.

Nearly two-thirds expect bigger businesses to benefit more from one of the biggest online shopping days on 1 December 2014 because of customer perceptions about security, according to a study commissioned by the government’s Cyber Streetwise campaign.

Some 62% of SMEs polled think Cyber Monday sales will have little impact on them, largely because customers believe the websites of larger firms are more secure than those of smaller companies.

Despite this concern, less than a third of SMEs consider cyber security a big priority for their business and less than 10% take extra precautions when processing online payments, such as adopting a two-stage 3D Secure payment system and conducting due diligence on online transactions.

Missed opportunity for SMEs

Minister for the digital economy Ed Vaizey said Cyber Monday and the Christmas shopping period present excellent opportunities for SMEs to do business online, however many are missing out because customers lack confidence in the security of their websites.

“By focusing on improving their levels of cyber security, small firms can protect themselves from threats and encourage more consumers to buy from them online,” he said.

Vaizey said the Cyber Streetwise website is a good place for SMEs to start because it offers guidance and support on how they can make themselves more cyber-secure.

Consumer champion, entrepreneur and founder of Sarah Willingham said Cyber Monday is set to be one of the biggest shopping days of the year.

“It is a great event for SMEs that sell both products and services online to take advantage of, but this research shows small businesses could greatly benefit if they took a few more steps to boost their cyber security,” she said.

According to IMRG, the UK’s industry association for online retail, it is vital for SMEs to take the cyber security threat seriously and implement tools to secure their websites.

“These companies should also ensure their on-site messaging re-assures potential shoppers while also encouraging them to purchase,” said IMRG chief operations and policy officer Andrew McClelland.

“The investment that bigger brands make in promoting sales periods creates opportunities for smaller businesses to offer something different and unique,” he said.  

Cyber Streetwise advice

Cyber Streetwise, funded by the government’s £860m National Cyber Security Programme, has advised SMEs to take these basic steps to protect both themselves and their customers:

  • Train staff to understand cyber threats with the government’s free online course
  • Keep software secure by always installing updates
  • Install and use antivirus software
  • Use complex passwords which include a minimum of three words and a symbol

SMEs are also encouraged to use the government-backed Cyber Essentials Scheme to help improve their defences against cyber threats.

Gaining accreditation enables businesses to display the Cyber Essentials badge and demonstrate to their customers they take their cyber security seriously.

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