BESPOKE advice to help small businesses across the UK combat rising online threats is being offered through a state-of-the-art digital tool launched as Cyber Scotland Week draws to a close.

As part of the cross-government Cyber Aware campaign, GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has created the Cyber Action Plan to help micro businesses and sole traders securely navigate the increasingly digital landscape they operate in.

The government’s most recent Cyber Security Breaches Survey found that almost half of micro and small businesses reported suffering cyber security breaches or attacks in the past year. 46% were victims of these cyber incidents – up from 31% the previous year.

To help increase their digital defence, micro businesses and sole traders are being invited to complete a short questionnaire at that generates a personalised list of actions linked to the Cyber Aware behaviours.

NCSC Deputy Director for Economy and Society, Sarah Lyons said:  “Small businesses are vital to Scotland’s economy, but we know they can be a target for cyber criminals, particularly as they move more operations online.

“Our free Cyber Action Plan is here to help, offering bespoke, actionable information linked to the Cyber Aware behaviours.

“If you work for yourself, or run a small business, I would urge you to spend a few minutes on the questionnaire and follow the steps to help secure your business.”

The government is committed to supporting UK businesses and the NCSC has published advice and guidance to support organisations of all sizes, including how they can securely move their physical operations online and safely scale-up home working.

Earlier this week, the Minister for Digital Infrastructure, Matt Warman, the NCSC’s Director of Policy and Communications, Nicola Hudson, and Deputy Director for Economy & Society, Sarah Lyons, hosted an industry roundtable with businesses and industry bodies to discuss the Cyber Aware campaign and the cyber security practices of the UK’s small businesses.

UK Government Minister for Scotland, Iain Stewart said: “With lockdown restrictions driving more small businesses to operate digitally than ever before, we are committed to ensuring support is in place to protect against the increased threat of cyber security attacks.

“This initiative will offer small businesses across the whole of the UK free, tailored advice to keep them safe online.

“This is just one of many ways the UK Government is supporting Scotland’s small businesses to adapt to the many impacts of the pandemic, which has also included support for the self-employed and business loans.”

Matt Warman, Digital Infrastructure Minister said: “We’re serious about protecting the UK from the very real threat posed by hackers, so I welcome these efforts by NCSC to shield hard-working Scottish sole traders and microbusinesses from cyber threats.

“I urge Scottish business owners to get peace of mind by using this state-of-the-art tool to develop their own bespoke Cyber Action Plan.”

Over the past year entrepreneurs have launched online-only businesses, following necessary restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19. The Cyber Action Plan is a useful tool to help start-ups understand their online risk.

Jude McCorry, Scottish Business Resilience Centre said: “The resilience of businesses has been truly tested over the last year – particularly as the pandemic brought an increase in cyber crime.

“However, in equal measure we have also seen an incredible amount of proactivity from those same businesses as they rebuilt or future-proofed themselves.

“While the risk of cyberattacks may not ever disappear, programmes that provide clear and pragmatic advice for businesses are vital to protecting organisations in the future.”

Advertisements promoting the tool will be broadcast on radio and seen online from the March 5 2021. These adverts will direct people to – the home of the Cyber Action Plan.

Cyber Aware is the government’s advice on how to stay secure online, offering six actions people can take to protect themselves from the majority of cyber crime. It can be found at

The launch of the Cyber Action Plan follows a report from the Centre for Economic Performance, which found that more than 60% of UK businesses have shifted to working via new technologies since the start of the pandemic.