Cyber security breaches cost British businesses £29.1bn in 2016, after an estimated 2.9m firms became victims of cyber crime, according to new research.
The study, which has been carried out on behalf of Beaming, the business internet service provider, reveals that more than half (52 per cent) of British businesses fell victim to some form of cybercrime in 2016.
Beaming’s study, which was conducted by researchers at Opinium, found that viruses and phishing attacks were the most common corporate cyber threats faced by British businesses last year, in both cases affecting 23 per cent of the businesses surveyed.
Just under a fifth (18 per cent) of businesses suffered some form or hack or data breach in 2016, the study found.
The risk of cyber security breaches increases with business size.
Seventy one per cent of organisations with more than 250 employees were victim to some form of cybercrime last year, compared with less than a third (31 per cent) of enterprises with fewer than 10 people.
A Beaming spokesman said: “The threat of hacking and data theft garners the greatest amount of attention at board level within British businesses.
“A third (30 per cent) of companies discuss these matters in senior leadership meetings, compared with less than a fifth (18 per cent) a year ago.”
“By our calculations, we believe that 204,640 businesses in Yorkshire and the Humber were victims of cybercrime in 2016, at a cost of £2.03bn.
More than half a million British businesses took out cyber insurance policies for the first time in the last 12 months, and 19 per cent of UK companies are covered for losses associated with cyber security breaches and data theft.
The study found that small businesses are accelerating their investment in cyber security.
Demand for unified threat management devices, web application firewalls and network access control systems increased by 71 per cent, 59 per cent and 45 per cent respectively among firms that employ between 10 and 49 people.
Sonia Blizzard, the managing director of Beaming, said: “Large organisations are more likely to become a victim of cybercrime due to being more valuable targets and because employees are often the weakest link in the cyber security chain.
“They are also more resilient as they have resources to aid their recovery.
“Successful cyber attacks on smaller businesses are less frequent but cause disproportionately more harm.
“It is encouraging they are taking the threat more seriously and investing in their cyber defences, as a single attack could potentially break them.”
According to Beaming’s research, 115,388 micro-businesses were victims of cyber security breaches in 2016, which had a total cost of £1.87bn.
At the other end of the scale, 359 large businesses suffered cyber security breaches, with a total cost of around £13.1bn last year.
The findings are based on research carried out by the consultancy Opinium, which interviewed 547 leaders from a nationally representative sample of British businesses about their approaches to cyber security, and any breaches that affected their organisations in 2016.
Figures showing the overall impact of security breaches were obtained by analysing Beaming’s findings alongside business population estimates from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.
A Beaming spokesman said there were no equivalent statistics for cyber security breaches from 2015.