SMEs vulnerable to growing web threats

SMEs vulnerable to growing web threats

Small companies need to wise up to spyware

Seven out of 10 SMEs worldwide have fallen victim to spyware and virus infections, but have underestimated the potential security consequences, according to new research.

The latest State of Internet Security Report from Webroot Software highlights a number of problems concerning internet security threats at small firms.

"Unlike larger corporations, SMEs often lack the monetary resources and IT expertise to install and maintain the type of protection needed in the face of today's growing malware threats," said Webroot chief executive Peter Watkins.

"Most of these companies think that the real threats are viruses and worms, but the reality is that the percentage of spyware is much higher and growing quickly.

"As a result, these companies are easier targets for cyber-criminals when compared to larger companies with dedicated IT security resources."

SMEs account for more than 99.5 per cent of all businesses in each country surveyed, and represent more than 50 per cent of the gross domestic product in each country.

Watkins maintained that the sheer number of SMEs worldwide makes them an easier target for criminals, particularly as 77 per cent of respondents indicated that their success depends on the internet.

However, these small environments generally lack in-house security expertise, and must function on limited budgets and resources.

Increasing volumes of sensitive customer and employee data, combined with a rapidly evolving threat landscape, make security an ever increasing problem.

"We are seeing a perfect storm developing that could have a serious economic impact. SMEs are heavily reliant on the internet for their work, making them a target," said Watkins.

"Compounding matters, there has been a 183 per cent increase in websites harbouring spyware since January 2007, and SMEs are not defending themselves adequately.

"Given that these companies are the lifeblood of the world's leading economies in revenue generation and employment, we have a situation that could expose businesses and customers to a significant and growing threat on a global basis."

SMEs in all six countries surveyed reported viruses and worms as more of a threat than spyware, yet last year spyware threats increased 254 per cent while viruses were on the decline.

Approximately 96 per cent of respondents reported that they have an antivirus solution installed, but more than 60 per cent of respondents in Canada, France and the US still reported a virus infection in the past year.

Webroot has released a Guide to Security for Small & Medium Business (PDF) in conjunction with the report which provides tips and best practices for protecting infrastructure and sensitive customer data.