Nine in ten UK SMEs failing to protect against cyber risk

  • One in three UK SMEs cite online presence as key to growth
  • Less than one in 10 perceive cyber attacks as a threat to business
  • Seven percent of SMEs have taken out cyber insurance

SME Cyber threat

Nearly one in three (31 percent) small to medium-sized enterprises see developing an online presence as a key opportunity for their business in the year ahead, representing an increase of 7 percent compared to 2015 results. However, the gap between those focused on online expansion and those with cover in place to protect against cyber crime is also increasing.

New research tracked the responses from more than 1,000 SME decision makers across the UK. In March 2015, 24 percent of respondents saw online presence as key to their business when asked to pick the three biggest opportunities for their business in the year ahead, with 3 percent having cyber insurance – a gap of 21 percent. In March 2016, this gap increased to 24 percent, with 31 percent focusing on online expansion and 7 percent having cyber insurance.

At a time when the National Crime Agency has warned criminal cyber capability is outpacing the UK’s collective response, the SME community has an opportunity to increase preparation and the use of mitigation tactics. The Aon Risk study showed that nine percent of SMEs asked to pick the three biggest risks facing their business perceived cyber attacks as threats.

The cyber insurance gap: 2015 vs. 2016

SMEs that stated developing an online
presence is one of the biggest opportunities
SMEs with Insurance against cyber attacks Gap
March 2015 24% 3% 21%
March 2016 31% 7% 24%

While the smallest businesses are significantly more likely to embrace internet-related business opportunities, the results of the survey indicated the smallest businesses are most at risk. Small businesses are more than twice as likely not to have cyber insurance as their medium-sized counterparts (6 percent compared with 13 percent).

Thirty-three percent of small businesses cited developing their online presence as a key opportunity area for their business for the year ahead, compared with 23 percent of medium sized business. Similarly, 16 percent of small businesses cited the online/ digital marketing capability of the business as important drivers influencing their business outlook for the next 3 months, compared with 11 percent of medium sized businesses.

Small Medium
Cited developing online presence as key opportunity for
year ahead
33% 23%
Cited the online/ digital marketing capability of the business
as key drivers influencing their business outlook for the next 3 months
16% 11%
Have cyber insurance 6% 13%

Andrew Tunnicliffe, CEO, Aon Risk Solutions UK, commented: “Whilst the recent Brexit vote has drawn attention to Britain’s place in Europe, the business community in reality operates in a digitised, global marketplace where the pace of change is, at times, staggering. This reality is reflected in our latest study, with many SMEs placing greater emphasis on investing in online growth and opportunities.”

“Given this, it is a concern that 90 percent of SMEs have no cyber insurance in place, with many unnecessarily exposing their businesses to serious risks. At Aon, we are working hard to help SMEs anticipate and manage change in the face of an increasingly competitive market, it is important for SMEs to plan and navigate a clear path through uncertainty, managing risks before they damage their business.”

Further information on Cyber and Data Breach Risk Solutions is available here

This article has been compiled using information available to us up to 03.08.16

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Important information

Whilst care has been taken in the production of this article and the information contained within it has been obtained from sources that Aon UK Limited believes to be reliable, Aon UK Limited does not warrant, represent or guarantee the accuracy, adequacy, completeness or fitness for any purpose of the article or any part of it and can accept no liability for any loss incurred in any way whatsoever by any person who may rely on it. In any case any recipient shall be entirely responsible for the use to which it puts this article.


All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc, an international full-service market research agency. Total sample size for the online survey was 1007 SME Decision Makers. Fieldwork was undertaken between 21-29 March 2016. Figures have been weighted and are representative of company size.