CYBER criminals cost Leeds businesses £57m last year, the highest figure outside of London, a report claims.
Last year saw a surge in global companies being hit by online criminals, with Yahoo, Talk Talk and LinkedIn all being targeted.
Even the Democratic Party in America was attacked during the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, causing her reputational damage.
Research by Leeds-based technology firm Altodigital showed that almost two thirds of companies in the city were targeted by hackers in the last 12 months.
It said that many firms are seriously compromising their confidential data, and unknowingly committing security violations because of a lack of knowledge of their IT systems and document security.
All told Altodigital said the fallout of these hacking incidents equated to five to seven days of down time for UK business, with a huge 69 per cent of staff members affected.
The most common causes of firms suffering security breaches were companies not having firewalls, failure to change old passwords and not protecting data stored on printers and photocopiers.
Unsurprisingly, the primary reason for IT hacks on Leeds’ businesses in 2016 was phishing emails – when fraudsters attempt to obtain sensitive information for malicious reasons.
Thirteen per cent of those questioned have also experienced a hack via their telecoms systems, with the most common methods being via remote voice mail access (43 per cent), remote programming (52 per cent) and IP phones (47 per cent).
When it comes to scanning or photocopying documents, 52 per cent of Leeds’s businesses admitted to regularly processing highly confidential documents such as birth certificates, client confidential documents and even company insurance documents.
An overwhelming 72 per cent are unaware that a photocopier will store every single document that it scans – a serious hacking risk when connected to a company network.
When asked about the barriers to investing in a sophisticated security strategy, 56 per cent of companies said it’s too expensive, 62 per cent stated that it is too time consuming and 62 per cent citing a lack of knowledge on the subject for not implementing sufficient checks.
Alistair Millar, marketing manager at Altodigital, said: “We hope that businesses will continue to improve their office tech security, through simple precautions such as changing passwords, password protecting data and installing a simple security system so in another four years, the results will be more positive.”
Figures published earlier this year by accountancy giant KPMG showed that the total value of fraud against Yorkshire’s financial institutions more than trebled last year to £2.1m.
Professional criminal gangs were identified as the main perpetrators with the value of such fraud having shot up from £619,000 in 2015. The rise in cyber crime has helped drive the cost of fraud to Britain above the £1bn mark for the first time in five years.
Notable cases coming to court in Yorkshire included a collections manager in Leeds who stole more than £100,000 from a company where he was employe. He carried out the deception for almost three years before his offending came to light.