UK businesses experienced an average of 30 cyber incidents each in the last year – a 25% increase on last year – a report by iomart and Oxford Economics has found.

The report found that businesses spend, on average, more than £40,000 a year on cyber protection, yet more than a quarter (27%) of organisations think their cyber security budget is inadequate.

The rising cost of cyber insurance premiums is one of the biggest financial expenditures, with 70% of businesses noting a rise over the last two years.

Only 37% of respondents reported security embedded into all their business processes and functions, while 14% said that security is addressed on an ad hoc basis.

A lack of key skills remains one of the main concerns in tackling rising cyber threats. So much so that 30% of cyber staff admit to currently facing burnout.

This pressure also means that less than half of companies are confident in their ability to handle the biggest threats facing organisations, including phishing (56%) and malware (55%).

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Emerging technologies

More than a third (38%) of businesses believe the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) will be a major trend in cyber security over the next two years, particularly to support with email screening (78%) and contextual analytics (69%).

Lucy Dimes, CEO of iomart, said: “It is clear the threat of cybercrime is rising, but there’s a lack of confidence in organisations’ abilities to protect themselves against it.

“There are ways to relieve these pressures, with effective strategies being developed and new technologies such as AI being embraced.”

Yet the use of AI as a cybersecurity tool is still in its early stages. On Monday (2nd Oct), cybersecurity company Egress found that nearly 71% of AI detectors fail to detect phishing emails generated by AI chatbot software.

Egress explains that LLMs lower the barrier for attacks and can help make phishing emails seem more realistic by avoiding errors and creating requests that seem more commonplace. 

Furthermore, LLMs give attackers the ability to create a higher volume of emails instantly, which enables them to create more widespread attacks than ever before. 

In August, US cybersecurity company Mandiant warned that despite current usage of AI in online malicious activity being low, threat actors remain largely interested in leveraging the technology.

Whilst previous analysis of fraud shows that the elderly population were at the highest risk of online fraud and cyberattacks, increasingly realistic AI-generated images and videos put even the savviest of internet users at risk.