Small businesses across the West Midlands could become targets of computer hackers shifting their focus to those which lack security and are an easier target, a Shropshire director of the UK IT Association warned today.

Investigations across the UK show small and medium-sized businesses are being targeted and the majority are unprepared for the attack.

Chris Pallett FBCS CITP; entrepreneur and technology expertThe chief of MI5 has warned the UK of the “astonishing” levels of cyber attacks on the industry and said “vulnerabilities in the internet are being exploited aggressively”.

But recent investigations across the UK show small and medium-sized businesses are also being targeted and the majority are unprepared for the attack.

Telford based Chris Pallett, founder of Bespoke Computing Ltd and Shropshire Chairman of BCS, The Chartered Institute of IT in Shropshire, said all firms need to look at protecting themselves, no matter how big or small.

He said: “Smaller companies generally do have more vulnerable IT systems because they don’t feel they will be a target.

“The chief of MI5 is warning people about the extent at which this is happening but there are still companies who have not put security measures in place.

“Because of this they are in fact an easier target for hackers. Not only that, hackers do not receive as much attention when hacking into a small company as they would trying to breach the security systems of large companies and organisations across the UK.

“Because they can get in easily and more quickly than into a larger firm they can target lots of smaller businesses in the same amount of time as one large one with a state-of-the-art security system.

“But the hackers ‘small’ amount from each business may be too much for the targeted company to lose and a lack of security could mean an end to their livelihood.

“Small firms do not need huge state-of-the-art systems but they need to be aware they could be a target and take action.”

A Threat Awareness Survey of nearly 2,000 small businesses across the globe by internet security firm Symantec found half the firms were aware of cyber threats but felt they were not in danger due to their size.

Three out of five businesses surveyed said they did not use anti-virus technology and two out of three failed to use secure machines for online banking.

“These are simple security measures and businesses across the Midlands need to make sure they are not open to attacks,” added Chris.

“Symantec’s research shows that since the beginning of 2010, 40 per cent of all targeted attacks have been directed at small and medium-sized businesses, compared to 28 per cent directed at large companies – those figures show everyone needs to be on their guard.”