A third of Scots small firms are at a heightened risk of online harms over their use of cybersecurity products aimed at household consumers, a new survey has shown.

New research shows that 35 per cent of small companies across the nation are using cyber security products which are designed to protect consumers rather than businesses, while four per cent aren’t using any cyber protection at all.

The survey of 1,000 UK businesses, commissioned by BT, comes after the UK Government found that almost half of all UK small businesses suffered a cyber security breach or attack last year.

The telecoms giant believes that with the majority of small firms moving online during the pandemic, “opportunistic” cyber criminals have also stepped up their efforts to target them.

From the data it has gathered, BT estimates thousands of businesses in Scotland do not have any cyber protection in place and require more support to help keep them safe online.

The company has enhanced its cyber protection for small businesses by introducing new online tools and advice-led resources to help small businesses better protect themselves from online attacks. 

The development comes as its research found that over half (55 per cent) of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) which lack cyber protection believe their business isn’t big enough to be targeted by cyber criminals, revealing that many remain complacent around the risk of attack.

Alan Lees, Scotland director at BT, said: “There has been a huge shift over the past two years in the number of small firms in Scotland (27 per cent) moving more of their business online. Whilst that’s a really encouraging trend, being an online business can also bring its challenges, particularly around cyber security.

“Any digital business – large or small – can be a target for cyber criminals, and this is something we’ve seen during the pandemic. And whilst consumer-grade products are great for protecting you while surfing the web, accessing emails and other personal use, they’re not designed for running a business which requires more robust protection and safeguards.

“It’s clear that our smallest firms need more support in this area, so today we’re launching new free cyber security tools for our BT business broadband customers, together with free online advice to help upskill small businesses on how to stay safe online.”

Alongside a series of new online platforms to help small businesses stay safe online, BT has launched the next phase of its ‘The Future is Now’ campaign with a focus on strengthening the resilience of firms, featuring advice-led content from partners such as the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).

A new interactive tool developed by BT is also available online to help small businesses spot cyber threats in workplace scenarios and learn how to combat them.

SMEs can also gain access to cybersecurity guidance from BT’s Skills for Tomorrow programme, with free webinars on topics such as how to spot attacks and how to avoid opening risky files or visiting phishing sites.