According to Shred-it’s third annual Security Tracker survey SMEs in the UK are putting their own businesses at risk and could also be damaging larger firms they supply services to by not taking enough preventative measures of confidential data.

It’s good business sense for larger companies to ask whether their suppliers have a data protection partner and an information security system in place – not only to prevent sensitive information being lost by a third party but also because the financial and reputational damage of a breach could put that supplier out of business and cause havoc in the supply chain,” warns Robert Guice, Vice President Shred-it EMEA.

The survey reveals SMEs are 10 times less likely to have an information security system set up than is the case with larger businesses.

SMEs continue to hugely underestimate the potential cost of a data breach to them. In terms of financial loss, the Information Commissioner’s Office in the UK can fine companies up to half a million pounds, enough to send many companies into insolvency”, Mr Guice said. “We believe that smaller companies maybe over-estimating the costs involved in making sure confidential information is kept safe

Whilst larger companies may be able to absorb this cost, SMEs risk a huge hit to their bottom line and a tarnished reputation which can impact relationships with customers and other business partners” Mr Guice continued.

There is a worrying gap between the protocols in place between smaller and larger businesses. Whilst companies with revenue over £1m are eight times more likely to use a professional shredding company to dispose of their sensitive documents, 37 per cent of small businesses in the UK have no information security management system in place. Moreover, three in ten (28 per cent) small business owners have never provided any information security training to their employees.

Key findings include

  • 2 in every 5 large businesses suffering a data breach have incurred losses of more than £500,000
  • The average fine is approximately £150,000 – large enough for 30% of companies to have to lay off staff as a result.
  • 77% of larger businesses have an employee directly responsible for managing information security issues at management level (66%) or board level (11%)
  • 48% of SMEs have a nominated person
  • 95% of large businesses have an employee devoted to data protection compared with only 53% of small business owners, suggesting that larger businesses better understand the potential threat of data breaches and have put control systems in place accordingly.
  • 33% of senior business executives and only 4% of small business owners use a professional shredding service
  • 88% of large businesses are more than twice as likely to be aware of the EU Data Protection Directive reforms as small businesses (43%).
  • Although the gap is closer, large businesses are still more likely to be aware of the UK Data Protection Act (92%) than small business owners (72%).
  • With more information being stored in electronic form, it is equally worrying that less than one quarter of large (23%) and small businesses (25%) crush their electronic media – which means the vast majority of UK businesses are inadvertently putting themselves and their customers at risk.
  • Businesses could be giving away private information to fraudsters by not properly disposing of or destroying hard drives. 66% of large business and 49% of small business owners wrongly think that degaussing or wiping a hard drive will remove confidential information kept on them.

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