Lax security practices among small businesses are leaving larger firms vulnerable to attack, security firm Kaspersky Lab has warned.
Speaking at the launch of research in London yesterday, senior researcher for Kaspersky, David Emm, said that in the past 18 months there has been an increase in cyber attacks that target smaller firms supplying to enterprises.
"If you think about the car industry, the big manufacturers almost certainly have a raft of internal experts on IT and security, but they also have lots of links [to smaller firms]," he said.
If you are going to launch a full-on attack [against a large firm] that is going to be harder to do than if you go after the organisation that manufactures door handles or components. They probably have a connection to the network, and almost certainly have some of the plans for the vehicles that are being developed.
"So who are you going to go after? You are going to get more mileage by going after the smaller organisation."
According to the Kaspersky Lab research, many smaller businesses in the UK lack adequate protection against cyber attacks which leave them and the companies they sell to open to being compromised.
Surveying 250 micro-firms of up to 10 employees, the research showed that 82 per cent did not believe they are a target for attack because they are "too small" or "don't have anything worth stealing". This is despite a separate recent report by the Federation of Small Business which asserted that 41 per cent of small firms were hit by cybercrime in 2013.
The Kaspersky research also shows that over a third (36 per cent) of small business owners manage security themselves, with 28 percent using external IT professionals.
"Quite often the person running the company may be responsible for security and for running the company accounts," Emm added. "This makes a small or niche organisation a bit like a big consumer - they are wide open to the same sort of threats. But at the same time they are open to the targeted attacks that are going on which are going after businesses."
One of the areas where small companies are potentially coming under threat is through mobile devices.
The study found that two-thirds (68 per cent) of smaller businesses rely on internet-connected laptops and half allow mobile and remote working.
"Interestingly we are very frightened of mobile as we have not seen the attack yet - that is the vector that we feel is definitely coming next," said Alex Grant, managing director of Fraud Prevention at Barclays, also speaking at the roundtable event.
Kaspersky Lab and Barclays have drafted the following guidance for micro-firms:
Your business security five-a-day
Spend just five minutes a day checking the following five things to help keep your business safe
1. Passwords - Check that all internet-enabled devices and computers that carry your business data are protected by strong passwords, regardless of whether the equipment is company or employee-owned.
2. Attachment Awareness - Understand the dangers that can lurk in emails, web-links USB sticks, CDs etc. and consider introducing extra software that will filter out or contain suspicious-looking items.
3. Educate all employees - Make sure everyone knows on how to stay safe online; including how to use strong passwords, spot suspect emails or sites, and protect company information.
4.Back-up - Every day make sure the information you store on computers is backed-up and secure. Imagine how your business would cope if you had to get through the day without it.
5. Security systems - Take full advantage of any user-friendly internet security software that that has been specially created for small firms such as your own to secure devices such as smartphones, laptops, tablets, computers, WiFi and networks. Don't forget about physical security as well - keep things out of sight and the site locked up.