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Technology problems cause biggest headache for UK small businesses

Trend Micro : 02 June, 2008  (Technical Article)
You Gov survey by Trend Micro ranks technology concerns as the highest source of anxiety for small businesses with risk of losing confidential information featuring amongst the headaches
A new You Gov survey into British UK small business attitudes to operational business anxieties reveals that technology not working (42% of all respondents) is the number one work issue that causes anxiety, alongside with difficult clients and suppliers (42%) which cause the same level of concern. Heavy workloads (30%), tight deadlines (26%) and long hours (19%) were the next highest ranking issues causing concern.

The survey commissioned by Trend Micro, a global leader in internet content security, also asked small businesses about their anxiety regarding business-related crime. Fear of theft and office break-ins ranked low as issues causing most anxiety (9%) of all respondents ranked this as a top three concern. But there were some regional variations with more than one in ten London respondents (13%) saying business crime was one of their top three concerns. This compared with 3% of Scottish respondents. Anxiety over loss of confidential data was more of a general concern with one in ten of all businesses worried about this; respondents in London and Midlands/Wales registered a slightly higher level of concern (12%).

When asked about electronic crime, the majority of all respondents (83%) said they had not been a victim of electronic crime in the last 12 months. Once again there were some interesting regional anomalies with 18% of Scottish respondents saying they had suffered at least one incident in the last year.

This low rate of reported incidents among small businesses comes as the recorded volume of electronic crime attacks grows and is increasingly targeted at small businesses that do not necessary have the resources or systems to protect themselves. A further worry is that these attacks are hidden and many small businesses may not know when an electronic crime is being committed.

For example, in May 2008 over half a million websites were infected with malicious code. Most of these were small business websites typically made up of old and unsecured coding and running on older or unpatched web server and operating systems. These sites are easy targets for cyber criminals looking to hijack commercial websites for financial gain and identity fraud. Most of the UK businesses affected were sole-traders relying on their web presence for revenue generation.

Paul Burke, SMB Product Marketing Manager - EMEA at Trend Micro says: "Information technology problems top the list of everyday anxieties for small businesses. The survey also suggests that we need to do much more to better inform and help the small business community about the new generation of security threats that are attacking their IT infrastructure silently and with potentially devastating effects to their reputation and finances. Our Worry-Free initiative is geared specifically to provide these businesses with both support and guidance on how to better protect themselves without adding to their IT anxieties and having to become an IT security expert."

While putting into place comprehensive security software is key, Trend Micro suggests a number of tips on how small businesses can protect their assets, their customer information and, most importantly, their reputation:.

* Ensure that all employees use effective passwords, and when possible, stronger authentication technology.
* Encourage passwords that are comprised of different upper and lower case letter characters and change them frequently.
* Discourage employee downloads from non-trusted sources such as peer-to-peer and video.
* Protect your network; by ensuring that PCs and laptops are protected by firewalls, anti-virus software and web threat protection both within the office network as well as when mobile working.
* Keep all operating systems and software up-to-date, as without updates, your systems will not be well protected against new cyber threats.
* Create and manage back-ups. It is best to store secured copies and use encryption to protect sensitive records about employees, suppliers and customers.
* Maximise encryption. You should protect customer data by encrypting it with passwords or encryption keys.
* Don't leave sensitive data saved on a handheld or mobile device, in case it is stolen or lost.
* Keep in mind that your company will grow, and shop for security solutions that will grow with your business's pace.
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