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Majority of US small businesses ‘suffer from false sense of cyber security’: survey

The majority of small business owners believe that Internet security is critical to their success and that their companies are safe from cyber security threats: but most fail to take fundamental precautions. This is the headline finding from a survey of US small businesses sponsored by Symantec and the National Cyber Security Alliance and conducted by Zogby International.

The survey found that two-thirds (67 percent) of US small businesses have become more dependent on the Internet in the last year and 66 percent are dependent on the network for their day-to-day operations. What's more, 57 percent of firms say that a loss of Internet access for 48 hours would be disruptive to their business, 38 percent said it would be ‘extremely disruptive’ and 76 percent say that most of their employees use the Internet daily.

The vast majority of small business owners think their company is cyber-secure as 85 percent of respondents said their company is safe from hackers, viruses, malware or a cyber-security breach and seven in ten (69 percent) believe that Internet security critical to their business's success. Additionally, a majority (57 percent) of small businesses believe that having a strong cyber security and online safety posture is good for their company's brand.

Despite this, a closer look reveals that most small businesses lack sufficient cyber security policies and training. 77 percent said they do not have a formal written Internet security policy for employees and of those, 49 percent reported that they do not even have an informal policy. More small business owners also said they do not provide Internet safety training to their employees than said they do - to a tune of 45 versus 37 percent. And a majority of businesses (56 percent) do not have Internet usage policies that clarify what websites and web services employees can use and only 52 percent have a plan in place for keeping their business cyber-secure.

At the same time, small businesses may not understand how to respond to online threats or the danger they pose. For example, 40 percent of small businesses say that if their business suffered a data breach or loss of customer or employee information, credit card information or intellectual property, their business does not have a contingency plan outlining procedures for responding and reporting it. Two-fifths (43 percent) also say they do not let their customers and partners/suppliers know what they do to protect their information.

The respondents' sense of security is especially unwarranted given that 40 percent of all targeted cyber attacks are directed at companies with less than 500 employees, according to Symantec data.

The survey also found that 69 percent of their businesses handle customer data while about half (49 percent) handle financial records, one-third (34 percent) handle credit card information, one quarter (23 percent) have their own intellectual property, and one in five (18 percent) handled intellectual property belonging to others outside their company. When asked to rank the top concern of small business owners while their employees are on the Internet, 32 percent reported viruses, 17 percent spyware/malware and 10 percent reported loss of data. Yet only 8 percent are concerned about loss of customer information, 4 percent about loss of intellectual property and only 1 percent worry about loss of employee data, even though cyber security experts believe the loss of any of this kind of information would be devastating to a business.

The study surveyed 1,045 small business owners from September 9-21, 2011. The survey had a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points.


•Date: 25th October 2011 • Region: US •Type: Article • Topic: ISM

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