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Press Release | 09 Mar 2021

Vodafone calls for new cybersecurity policies to promote small business recovery

Vodafone calls for new cybersecurity policies to promote small business recovery

Government should introduce a reduced 5% VAT rate on cybersecurity products to help small businesses as they recover from the pandemic, as a Vodafone-backed report shows how much small businesses stand to lose from a cyber-attack.

  • Government should introduce a reduced 5% VAT rate on cybersecurity products to ensure they are accessible to the UK’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) community.
  • Vodafone calls for additional resources for the National Cyber Security Centre to support the economic recovery of SMEs.
  • Announcement comes as new report shows almost a quarter of SMEs, the equivalent of 1.3 million businesses, say they could not continue to operate following a cyber-attack.
  • A further 16%, the equivalent of almost a million companies, said a cyber-attack would result in headcount reduction.
  • Almost a third of SMEs have seen an increase in attacks since the beginning of the first lockdown.

Vodafone has asked the Government to protect small and medium-sized businesses further by providing more support to the National Cyber Security Centre and making cybersecurity protections more accessible.

A report published today – ‘Protecting our SMEs: Cybersecurity in the new world of work’ – states that the UK’s economic recovery from COVID-19 is at risk if new policy recommendations are not introduced in line with the new risks that have emerged in the last 12 months.

According to the Federation of Small Businesses, SMEs account for 99.9% of the UK’s six million private sector businesses. This means they employ three fifths of the UK’s workforce. The policy recommendations would provide much-needed support for a critical component of the UK economy.

While much has already been done to support the development of the cybersecurity segment in the UK, Vodafone believes the next step should be to create policy that supports SMEs directly. As the risks are constantly evolving, Government policy for cybersecurity should also.

The report makes the case for several policy recommendations, including a reduced 5% VAT rate on cybersecurity products, as well as additional investment and resources for the National Cyber Security Centre to expand a dedicated unit for cybersecurity for business to help secure recovery for SMEs.

Vodafone believes the positive relationship between the National Cyber Security Centre and private industry has led to the UK having a world-leading cybersecurity industry. The expansion of an SME-dedicated unit would build on these foundations, enabling small businesses to further enjoy the benefits of this leadership position.

The recommendations were prompted by polling for the report which found that 1.3 million SMEs in the UK would collapse if they fell victim to a cyber-attack. A successful cyber-attack has an average cost of £3,230; 23% of SMEs polled said that they could not survive a loss of this scale.

Pre-COVID-19, cyber-attacks cost the UK economy £34bn a year. But this report finds that almost a third of SMEs (31%) have seen an increase in attacks since the beginning of the first lockdown in March 2020 – so this figure may now be even higher.

The report assesses the heightened cybersecurity risks to SMEs through working remotely, arguing that the Government should treat SME cybersecurity as a matter of national resilience, taking proactive steps to raise awareness among SMEs of the risks they face and supporting them to protect themselves more effectively. With over 75% of UK SMEs now relying on remote working, the risks are heightened.

The report’s recommendations in full are:

  • The next National Cyber Security Strategy should include a section on SME protection, with reference to the increased risk associated with remote working.
  • The Government should consider additional funding for the National Cyber Security Centre to expand a dedicated unit for cybersecurity for business.
  • SMEs should be incentivised to strengthen their own cybersecurity through direct subsidies. This could be paired with a reduced 5% VAT rate on cybersecurity products.
  • The Government should commit an additional 5% to the National Cyber Security Strategy budget to support the delivery of local cybersecurity skills and training.
  • Part of the Government’s doubled and rebalanced R&D budget should go towards cybersecurity product development in research centres in the North and Midlands.

Anne Sheehan, Business Director, Vodafone UK, said: “Cyber-attacks are an existential threat to Britain’s small businesses, yet nearly a third have no cybersecurity strategy in place. This report’s stark findings are a warning that as SMEs do more and more of their business online, it is vital that they take the steps they need to keep themselves safe – and that Government does more to support them to do so. The UK needs successful, resilient small businesses.”

The polling results in full showed:

  • 23% of SMEs, roughly 1.3 million companies, said that an average cyber-attack costing £3,230 would destroy the business.
  • Another 16%, almost a million SMEs, said that it would probably mean having to lay off staff.
  • 23% said that it might mean having to use up financial reserves.
  • Only 22% of those polled said that a loss of this level would not have a material impact on the business.
  • 4 in 10 SMEs (41%) had experienced some form of cyber-attack in the previous 12 months, with 20% experiencing six or more attacks.
  • 31% said that they had seen an increase in cyber-attacks since the UK went into lockdown in March 2020.

Simon Fell, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cybersecurity, said: “This new report from Vodafone shows that businesses often lack awareness of the cybersecurity risks they face, the protection they need to mitigate them, and the resources to withstand them.

“SME cybersecurity is not a prosaic issue facing a few journeymen trying their hands at a new business during the pandemic, but rather an issue of national economic resilience.”

– Ends –

Notes to editors

Survation polled 503 business leaders in the UK between 21 and 22 August 2020.

Report authored by WPI.

Follow @VodafoneUKNews on Twitter.

About Vodafone UK

Vodafone UK is a technology communications company that connects people, businesses and devices to help our customers benefit from digital innovation. Our services span mobile, fixed-line connections, home and office broadband, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

We have a strong track record as a tech pioneer, making the UK’s first mobile phone call, sending the first text message, and making the UK’s first live holographic call using 5G in 2018. We were also the first to start carrying live 5G traffic from a site in Salford, Greater Manchester. As of June 2021, we have 5G in 364 locations across Europe – 124 in the UK and 240 across Germany, Spain, Italy and Ireland. Our 4G network coverage currently reaches over 99% of the UK population.

Today, Vodafone serves more than 18 million mobile and fixed-line customers in the UK. To help deliver Gigabit UK, our full-fibre broadband roll-out programme now covers 15 UK towns and cities through partnerships with CityFibre and Openreach.

Sustainability is also at the heart of what we do: as of 1 July 2021, 100% of the grid electricity we use in the UK is certified to be from renewable sources.

For more information about Vodafone UK please visit: www.vodafone.co.uk.

Vodafone UK Media Relations

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Email: ukmediarelations@vodafone.com

Twitter: @VodafoneUKNews

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