Small businesses in the UK faced an average of five cyberattacks in the last 12 months according to new research which highlights a growing threat from online criminals.

A significant number of IT decision makers in these SMBs believe they are being put at greater risk of attack because their security software is not keeping pace with the attacker’s increased sophistication.

Nearly 20 per cent faced as many as 10 attacks in the last year, according to the new independent report: "Under Attack: Assessing the struggle of UK SMBs against cyber criminals", commissioned by online encryption specialists Appstractor Corporation.

According to the IT bosses who took part in the report, a major cause for concern is that security and encryption software caters for either individual consumers or large corporations and governments. This means SMEs cannot deploy effective software in a small business environment.

Less than half of IT decision makers surveyed believe that they are able to properly protect themselves against cyber criminals using current software and systems to the same standard as large businesses.

A third believe that the UK’s small business community - which makes up 99 per cent of businesses, according to the Federation of Small Businesses - is being forgotten about and put at a higher risk than larger counterparts.

The research found:

  • 17 per cent of companies faced at least one attack in the last year
  • 28 per cent were attacked 2-3 times
  • 32 per cent faced 4-5 attacks
  • 19 per cent were attacked 6-10 times
  • 2 per were attacked up to 20 times

"It is the case that small and medium businesses are at a disadvantage in the cyber security arms race because software and platforms are not being effectively designed for them, so they have to shoehorn consumer or large enterprise grade solutions into their company which don't work in small businesses,” said Paul Rosenthal, CEO and founder of Appstractor Corporation.

"But these IT managers and small business owners need to rid themselves of their current ideas that they are too small to be targeted so don't have to worry about security and encryption software.”

Rosenthal founded Appstractor in 2010 from his living room.

"The reality is, small businesses are being targeted by criminals more than ever before and techniques like automated mass targeting are putting them at a serious and present risk of attack."