Small businesses in the UK bore the brunt of £17 billion worth of cyber-attacks in 2018, according to new research.

Almost two thirds of UK companies employing between 10 and 49 people - the equivalent of 130,000 businesses nationwide - fell victim to some form of cybercrime last year, according to research from the business internet service provider Beaming.

According to the company, the average cost of cyber-attacks on small businesses amounted to £65,000 per victim in damaged assets, financial penalties and business downtime. The puts the total bill of cybercrime across all UK small businesses in 2018 at an estimated £13.6 billion.

Beaming’s annual survey of business leaders, which was conducted by the research consultancy Opinium, indicates that 33 percent of UK companies fell victim to cybercrime in 2018.

While malicious phishing emails claimed the greatest number of victims (25 percent of firms), ransomware attacks were the most financially damaging, costing victims £21,000 each on average.

Although the trend for large businesses to fall victim at the highest rate continued, with seven in every 10 companies of more than 250 people being hit, the rate at which small companies succumbed to cybercriminals reached its highest level since Beaming started surveying business leaders in 2016.

“Our research shows that cyber criminals don’t care how big your business is, everyone is a potential victim and the cost of an attack can be devastating,” said Sonia Blizzard, managing director of Beaming.

“Larger businesses fall victim at the greatest rate because they have more people and more potential sources of vulnerability. However, they also tend to have multiple layers of protection in place to limit the spread of an attack and are able to recover more quickly after one.