Cyber attacks on British businesses have risen sharply in the last year with one in seven incidents traced to China, according to research from a leading Internet Service Provider (ISP).

Computer data from thousands of companies was analysed by Beaming, an ISP based in East Sussex, which found that the volume of cyber attacks on UK businesses increased by 179 percent in Q2 2019, the highest level of cyber crime activity since the company started recording in 2016.

In its Cyber Threat report, the firm found that that businesses had been exposed to 146,500 cyber attacks each in the second quarter – up from 52,600 in the same period last year; in all, the report shows (in the illustration) that cyber attacks have tripled over the last three years and the current rate of cyber attacks equates to one attack every 50 seconds.

Beaming’s cyber security analysts identified 371,080 unique IP addresses used to launch online cyber attacks on UK businesses – with 52,860 of these traced to locations in China, or one in seven of the total; there was also a large amount of attack activity originating in Taiwan, Brazil, Egypt and the USA. However, cyber attack orginination can be masked by sophisticated tools to falsify locations, so IP addresses are not necessarily proof of where the perpetrator is based.

Sonia Blizzard, managing director of Beaming, said: “The rate at which UK businesses are attacked online has soared over the last year and companies large and small are under sustained attack from hackers around the world. The majority of cyber attacks on businesses are indiscriminate, malicious code that trawls the web seeking to exploit any weak point in cyber security systems. A single breach can be catastrophic to those involved.”

“We do lots at a network level to minimise the threat of online attacks, but businesses need to take the threat seriously, educate employees and put in place measures such as managed firewalls to ensure they don’t expose themselves to undue risk. We are spending more time than ever working with customers to help improve their resilience to attack. ”

IoT devices and file sharing services were the most frequently targeted applications, attracting 17,737 and 10,192 attacks respectively between April and June.

Linsey Scott, Regional Development Director at Jelf in Scotland, the insurance company, added: “Businesses across all sectors and sizes from SME to blue chip are vulnerable to hackers but unfortunately a general awareness of cyber risks has not necessarily translated into the adoption of adequate protections.

“Too many firms focus solely on prevention and do not have safeguards in place to deal with the significant financial and reputational damage that may occur from a successful attack.  “We would strongly urge businesses who have cyber insurance to review their policies alongside their risk management provisions to ensure they have adequate cover in place.”