More than half (52 per cent) of businesses in the UK fell victim to a cyber attack in 2016, equating to almost three million firms in total.
This is the finding of a recent report compiled by Beaming, which demonstrates the growing threat of cyber crime. However, it also highlights the increasing need for limited company contractors and freelancers with cyber security expertise who can provide their knowledge and skills to organisations on a short-term basis as they navigate their way through cyber breaches.
Cyber attacks 'on the rise'
According to the report, which was carried out in conjunction with researchers from Opinium, the total cost of cyber attacks in the UK last year came in at £29.1 billion, with some 2.9 million firms affected altogether.
Large companies with 250 or more members of staff were found to be more susceptible to cyber security breaches, with almost three-quarters (71 per cent) of firms of this size falling victim to an attack in 2016. In comparison, under one-third (31 per cent) of small businesses with ten or fewer employees were hit by a breach.
Beaming's managing director Sonia Blizzard explained: "Large organisations are more likely to become a victim of cyber crime due to being more valuable targets and because employees are often the weakest link in the cyber security chain. They are also more resilient as they have resources to aid their recovery.
"Successful cyber attacks on smaller businesses are less frequent, but cause disproportionately more harm. It is encouraging that small businesses are taking the threat more seriously and investing in their cyber defences, as a single attack could potentially break them."
How are businesses responding to cyber attacks?
The survey also looked at how organisations are responding to cyber attacks, with an increasing number taking the threat of breaches seriously and discussing them in senior leadership meetings. Some 30 per cent of respondents reported that this happened at their company compared to just 18 per cent last year.
What's more, it was found that almost 500,000 UK firms invested in a cyber insurance policy during 2016, with one-fifth (19 per cent) of companies now formally covered against any losses incurred by a cyber security attack or theft of data.
With this increasing awareness of the importance of having a formal strategy in place for tackling cyber breaches comes greater demand for personal service company contractors and freelancers with cyber security expertise. Many organisations are seeking the knowledge of these professionals to help them to strengthen their digital credentials.
But which cyber skills are in highest demand?
Which cyber skills are most in demand?
The most common form of cyber breaches in 2016 were phishing attacks and computer viruses, both of which affected almost one-quarter (23 per cent) of all businesses in the UK over the last 12 months.
As a result, contractors, freelancers and other self-employed individuals with expertise in these disciplines look set to be in high demand as organisations strive to protect themselves against future incidents of this kind throughout 2017.
The third most prevalent type of cyber attack was found to be data hacks or breaches, followed by denial of service attacks, social engineering and ransomware attacks. Subsequently, IT contractors with knowledge and experience in safeguarding against these styles of attacks can also expect demand for access to their skills to increase in the near future.
Beaming's research also led to the discovery that more firms began to adopt specialist technology aimed at preventing cyber attacks last year, with small and medium-sized businesses in particular implementing such measures.
For example, adoption of unified threat management devices has increased by 71 per cent over the past 12 months, while 59 per cent more companies have invested in web application firewalls and 45 per cent have implemented network access control systems.
Therefore, contractors operating in these industries may find themselves more in demand to help with the implementation of these as a growing number of organisations look to strengthen their credentials.