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Cybercrime Vs. Crime - What's the Biggest Threat Facing Businesses in 2018?

Never has there been a greater choice in how we pay for services or items.

Nearly all credit and debit cards now contain contactless technology. Mobile phones and smartwatches work seamlessly with payment services such as Apple Pay. Other smartphone apps even allow you to link your phone number to your bank account that so it’s possible to send money via text message.

These technological developments have seen the popularity of cash start to dwindle in the UK. Coins and notes fell behind card payments in popularity for the first time ever in 2016, according to figures from the British Retail Consortium.

This shift in spending habits is also having a major effect in the way that criminals look to carry out crime, particularly when it comes to businesses. With less cash kept on company properties and physical deterrents in place, criminals are increasingly turning to cybercrime.

Figures released by the Home Office last year showed that nearly half of all businesses in the UK were hit by some form of cyber-attack in the previous 12 months. The Federation of Small Businesses estimated these breakdowns in online security cost the UK economy an estimated £5.26 billion over the same period.

What’s startling about both figures is that they could well be substantially higher. The Home Office’s 2017 study into Serious and Organised Crime highlighted a worry over reputational damage as a reason why cybercrime is likely to go underreported by businesses. The true scale – and cost – of cybercrime should become clearer in the years ahead.

Industries Face Different Threats

The government’s most recent Crime Against Businesses study highlighted how different industries face different threats.

Wholesale and retail premises, for example, continue to see higher rates of crime than any other sector. While the number of shoplifting incidents has remained stagnant in comparison with 2012, the average cost of a stolen item(s) has increased substantially from £237 to £500.

Even though online crime has gradually increased over recent years, it still only represents 16% of reported crime in the retail industry. In comparison, shoplifting represented 67% of all reported crime.

In the transportation industry, cybercrime totalled just 12% of reported crime. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the industry in which online crime was most prevalent was administration and support.

Tackling Both Issues

Traditional crime can often be tackled through physical deterrents such as security systems and physical barriers. While these can be expensive to install, they’re usually just a one-off cost. One of the main issues with cybercrime is that it’s constantly evolving. As such, defending against it requires continual investment. For many small and medium-sized businesses, this additional expenditure simply isn’t an option.

A 2017 study into security risks facing small to medium-sized businesses by the risk management firm, Gallagher, highlighted how 44% of business owners expected some kind of online attack in the next 12 to 18 months. Despite this, nearly half (43%) admitted to having no business continuity, disaster recovery or crisis management plans in place to deal with such an issue.

With such a widespread lack of planning in place, it’s likely that a ransomware attack, such as the one that affected the National Health Service in May, could have long-lasting consequences for many business owners.

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