Cyber-crime is small companies’ biggest worry, according to insurer Zurich’s latest SME Risk Index.

The survey of more than 1,000 UK small and medium-sized businesses found that 42% of respondents consider the vulnerability of their technology to be the single largest concern to the success of their company.

Of all the technological vulnerabilities, respondents saw cyber attack (mentioned by 38% of those surveyed) as the most harmful followed closely by data loss and privacy breaches (mentioned by 37%).

Zurich said the findings were unsurprising given the increasing importance of technology in business.

Some 34% of survey respondents said that emerging technology, mobile technology and app development provide the greatest opportunities for growth, while 20% said that web trading was most important.

In light of their reliance on technology, 28% of small business owners said that operational challenges had emerged as prominent risks to the business. Within this, the biggest operational risks were deemed to be technological.

Effective IT management was seen as the largest risk to business performance by 34% of respondents, while preventing cyber security is proving a headache for 25% of respondents.

Zurich said, however, that it is encouraging that small businesses are identifying these risks and opportunities.

While 20% of respondents highlighted emerging online competition from other firms posing a threat to their profitability, 28% said they are actively investing in business assets and operations, taking steps to stay at the head of the pack.

Zurich UK head of SME propositions Anne Griffiths said: “As technology becomes more prevalent, so do the risks to sensitive data and information. It is encouraging to see the number of small businesses identifying cyber security as a major risk and focusing on operational investment to make their businesses secure increases.

“But as we learn more about the true dangers of hacking and data breaches, business must do more to educate one another and prevent the risk of cyber crime.”