Data misuse “top threat” faced by SMEs, study finds

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) consider data loss, breaches or misuse to be the number one potential threat they face this year, a new study suggests.

The findings come at a time when cybercrime is on the rise and small businesses are facing increased pressure to protect their data, following the introduction of the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May.

According to the research, which was carried out by insurance company Allianz, many SMEs are still not fully aware of the implications of the GDPR – while 50 per cent believe that they need expert advice to ‘bring them up to speed’.

This is particularly important, as the GDPR requires businesses to take a number of vital steps to protect personal data.

It also enables the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to hit businesses with fines of anywhere up to four per cent of global turnover or €20 million, whichever is higher, if their organisation has been affected by a serious data breach.

The insurer’s survey found that today’s SMEs consider data breaches to be a bigger threat than the likes of physical theft, malicious damage to business equipment and machinery, or even the risk of being overtaken by their competitors.

This makes perfect sense, as a separate study published by IBM last week found that UK businesses have spent some £2.77 million on trying to fix the damage caused by data breaches and cybercrime this year – on top of any potential fines they may also have faced.

David Martin, of Allianz, said that small businesses “clearly recognised” the significant threat data and security breaches posed to their businesses.

However, he warned that firms were simply not doing enough to protect themselves from data loss and misuse, perhaps due to a lack of understanding as to what they needed to do.

SMEs that are confused about the GDPR and how the new legislation affects their businesses should seek specialist legal advice ASAP.

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Maung Aye
Maung is a partner in our Corporate and Commercial department. He joined Mackrell Turner Garrett following corporate law positions in London and in a leading regional firm in Essex. Maung read European Legal Studies at Lancaster University and the Università degli Studi di Trento and is a fluent Italian speaker.