Growing online threat to retailers and wholesalers warns RSM

New statistics from the Government’s commercial victimisation survey reveal that there were 228,000 incidents of online crime against businesses in the retail and wholesale sector last year, a notable increase against the previous year.

The total number of online crimes experienced by retailers and wholesalers in 2015 was up significantly compared with the 2014 survey which recorded 136,000 incidents, but slightly down on the 2013 survey which recorded 234,000 incidents*.

Despite the fact there is a degree of overlap between different methods of online crime, the survey found that 42 per cent of cases related to computer viruses, followed by phishing attacks (34 per cent) and hacking (14 per cent).

Instances of online hacking appear to have risen significantly over the last three years from 6,000 incidents in 2012 to 32,000 incidents in 2015. Likewise, phishing attacks have become more prevalent with 77,000 cases in 2015, up from 5,000 in 2014. By contrast, the incidence of computer viruses appears to be lower than the previous year, falling from 118,000 in 2014 to 96,000 in 2015.

The survey also looked at the types of IT security measures in place at wholesale and retail premises. It showed that while most businesses of all sizes have anti-virus or anti-spam software and/or a firewall, other measures such as having a data security policy, restrictions on email or internet use by staff, encryption software or restrictions on portable data storage devices become more common as the size of the business increases.

Steve Snaith, head of technology risk assurance at business advisers RSM said: ‘

‘This survey shows there is a growing threat to both retailers and wholesalers from cybercrime. While some larger businesses are implementing the necessary steps to protect themselves, smaller businesses appear to be leaving themselves vulnerable. Retailers are particularly vulnerable to some forms of cybercrime due to the high prevalence of online trading.

‘As the numbers of devices used by staff in retail and wholesale premises continue to rise, so do the number of weak spots in an organisation’s network. Smaller businesses really need to take this threat more seriously and ensure they have the right controls in place.’

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