Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Digital Economy, wants security to be an enabler, and one which can bring competitive advantage. The UK has wholeheartedly embraced Internet technology. We’re world leaders in e-commerce: we spend a staggering £557 billion every year and four in five people bought something online over the past year. We have some of the best online services in the world, and this digital revolution is creating huge opportunities for businesses and citizens.
Nowhere is this more evident than in London. We have brilliant companies, old and new, who are able to innovate because we have skilled people and great access to technology. Small businesses can make a big impact due to the ability to reach new customers quickly and efficiently online. Availability of big data means firms can design the services people want better, quicker and cheaper than ever before. On a practical level, I love the fact we can navigate the way around our great capital city using services which connect us to people, culture, retail, transport, events and more.
The extent to which the online world is part of our everyday lives means we’re also uniquely vulnerable. All areas of our lives and work are moving online, and crime has moved online too. Last year’s crime survey for England and Wales looked at cyber crime for the first time, and highlighted the scale of the issue – there were an estimated 2.5 million cyber crime offences and 5.1 million online fraud cases.
Businesses bear the brunt of this because they are very active online and are exploiting the benefits of having their money, data and systems connected to the Internet. Our research found that around two out of five small businesses had been accessed by an unauthorised outsider in the past year.
That means that as world leaders in the use of the online technologies, we also need to be world leaders in online security.
Many of the capital’s small businesses are unprepared and unconcerned about cyber threats. Only a third feel completely prepared for a cyber security issue. Most worryingly, 13 per cent of London’s small businesses admit that they haven’t taken any steps at all to protect their data. And although the vast majority of London businesses have at least one digital security measure in place, just half surveyed use security software, and fewer still regularly update their software or have a strong password policy.
This is why protecting businesses is a key priority in the Government’s cyber security strategy. Some businesses are doing some of the right things, but we need to make sure as many as possible have good, basic protections in place. Knowing your risks, managing them properly and engaging your staff in the process is a great start. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive: there’s already a wide range of free help available at www.gov.uk
In recent years we’ve worked hard with our partners in GCHQ and across government to get the best advice and support to people and businesses. We’re investing £1.9 billion over the next five years to continue this mission, and in October 2016 a new National Cyber Security Centre will open in London to make sure industry can get the guidance and help needed to be secure and flourish online.
I think there’s a misconception that good security can slow you down or stop you being innovative. Obviously it’s something businesses need to address, just like any other business risk, but I’d like to see security as an enabler and one which can bring competitive advantage.
Recent research we did with KPMG revealed an overwhelming 94 per cent of procurement managers said cyber security standards were important when awarding a project to an SME supplier – and customers are increasingly demanding good security too. They want to be assured companies are looking after their data. The public reaction to recent high-profile attacks demonstrates this.
This is one of the reasons we worked with industry to develop the Cyber Essentials scheme. Most cyber attacks exploit basic vulnerabilities, so the scheme shows businesses how to address those basics. Adopting the scheme means your business can display the Cyber Essentials badge which says to customers, “look, we take this issue seriously and we can prove it – you can be confident in doing business with us”.
I’m encouraging all businesses operating online to adopt Cyber Essentials because I think it’s the minimum we should expect in a modern, interconnected world.
I was really pleased when I heard the LCCI is undertaking a cyber security awareness campaign with its members. Partnership is at the heart of the government’s cyber security strategy because working closely with industry partners is the best way to raise awareness and encourage action. I’d encourage you to engage with the campaign and take the simple steps to protect your companies.
London firms are in a great position to take the lead and show that good security is not an optional extra, but an integral part of modern, successful businesses.