Small businesses are being warned that they could come under attack from “unprecedented levels of attempted fraud” this month, as instances of fraud rockets by as much as 80 percent in February, according to new data from Worldpay UK.

The research found that SMEs operating online needed to be prepared for a huge rise in attempted fraud in February, as hackers start to capitalise upon customer data harvested during a hectic Christmas shopping period.

Worldpay found that small businesses are by far the biggest target for hackers, accounting for 85.7 percent of UK data breaches, and that during 2011-2014 virtually all data breaches (99.3 percent) happened online, rather than at the point of sale.

In 2014, businesses in the entertainment, hobby and leisure industries accounted for 23.3 percent of all card data breaches, followed by clothing and footwear stores (16.3 percent) and jewellery, beauty and gifts (11.6 percent).

The clean-up costs of being targeted can run to tens of thousands of pounds, with a standard investigation costing 11,250 pounds on average, and attracting at least a 8,000 pounds penalty, not including the costs of lost goods and damage to reputation, which can be very costly to a small business.

Tim Lansdale, head of payment security at Worldpay, said: “We see a dip in fraud around Christmas as hackers go on the hunt for information, using the online sales rush to stockpile thousands of customer card details. It isn’t until February that they start cashing in on all the data they’ve collected. Other breaches can last much longer; attackers might decide to keep returning to their targets, sometimes for years.

“Data breaches can be ruinous, so its vital small business owners know the risks and take the necessary measures to protect themselves and their customers and employees. You wouldn’t leave your store unlocked overnight, yet so few businesses are doing enough to protect their online shop fronts and keep hackers at bay.”

 

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