Over three-quarters of businesses do not have any cyber insurance cover in place, despite escalating digitisation

More than three-quarters (86%) of British small to medium enterprises (SMEs) do not have any cyber insurance in place, according to research by insurer Aviva.

Its SME Pulse Survey, which polled 505 SMEs in the UK between 12 and 24 April 2021, found that this lack of insurance protection comes at a time of rapid digitalisation, with statistics showing that 41% of SMEs updated their website in response to the pandemic, while 39% moved online or improved their online offering.

Nearly all (96%) of those businesses that made changes confirmed they would keep their online developments, yet only 11% have updated their cyber cover.

The research also highlighted significant regional variances – just 3% of Scottish SMEs had cyber cover in place, compared to 32% in Northern Ireland.

The ‘perfect storm’

Alana Muir, senior cyber underwriter at Aviva, said that business customers will often have cover for “tangible” risks, such as fire, flood and theft, however, the impacts of a cyber breach will extend beyond the initial costs, resulting in “loss of revenue” as well as “damage to both reputation and trust”.

She continued: “The pandemic has accelerated digital adoption across all businesses, meaning cyber insurance has quickly moved from a perceived luxury to an absolute must-have.

“Cyber cover doesn’t just protect businesses against an attack, but it also ensures they have fast access to expert specialists, so they can return to normal as quickly as possible in the event of a cyber incident.

“We know from our Aviva Risk Insights report that cyber attacks are one of the biggest issues faced by SMEs.

“This gives us a perfect storm where cyber attacks are increasing while businesses leave themselves exposed through lack of cover.

“So, it is important that businesses make sure they are not just staying on top of their digital admin, but they are also covered if they are one of the increasing number being targeted by online criminals.”

To help SMEs, Aviva has provided six top tips for business owners:

1. If SMEs are unclear about their digital risk, they should contact their insurance broker to understand the risks to their business and what protection they may need.

2. Always use individual identification and passwords to access computer equipment and change default or manufacturers’ passwords.

3. Back up all data every seven days or less and store backups securely and away from the data or programmes they relate to.

4. All personal and business data must be stored and disposed of in a secure manner. The definition of ‘personal data’ includes information SMEs hold on suppliers, business emails and employee data.

5. Install any updates for firmware, operating systems, software, or programmes within 14 days of release where the updates address a vulnerability described by the provider as critical, important, or high.

6. Ensure that any equipment connected to the internet or other network is protected by a suitable firewall and ensure it is updated automatically or at intervals of a month or less.