A HI-TECH security expert has warned Oxfordshire entrepreneurs after the cyber attack on online auction house eBay.

James Lyne, global head of security research at Sophos, said bosses should not believe they are too small to be targeted by online criminals — he believed the opposite was true.

Mr Lyne said: “It’s an interesting misconception among SMEs that cyber criminals and hackers go only after large corporations. But that assumption is flat-out wrong.

“One per cent of cyber crime focuses on organisations with huge data and high profit, such as eBay or nation states hacking each other. But the other 99 per cent goes towards consumers and SMEs because they don’t have the same defences.”

Mr Lyne, who used a bicycle to tour the UK, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Vietnamese capital Hanoi with a laptop to detect badly secured wifi systems, claims it is fairly easy to break into wifi networks, even if they are password-protected.

He added: “Bleeding small amounts from lots of very small organisations is far more easily done and is not much risk. And when these firms report it to the police, there are too many cases and the pound value of theft is too low for it to be taken hugely seriously.”

Last week, eBay revealed up to 145 million accounts had been hacked globally. Although eBay bosses insisted no financial information was accessed, they urged users to change their passwords amid fears of details being used for identity fraud.

In its security threat report, Sophos said cyber criminals are becoming smarter and more aggressive.

Not only are they good at masking their identity, they are also better at hiding in the ‘darknet’ — areas of the Internet designed to dodge surveillance.

And our increasing use of mobile devices gives criminals more scope.

Security experts have unmasked 650,000 pieces of malware for Android smartphones and believe there are many more not yet detected.

Statistics from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said a cyber attack can cost an SME six per cent of its turnover. It also found 87 per cent of SMEs and 93 per cent of firms with more than 250 staff experienced a security breech between 2012-13.

Sophos said it finds more than 30,000 newly infected websites distributing malware every day, and 80 per cent of these belong to legitimate small businesses which have been hacked.

Edward Williams, managing director of Oxford-based OFEC Consulting, which develops websites, said: “If you are using a recognised system such as Word Press and are updating both the system and the server regularly, there should not be a problem.

“But it is the sort of thing people just don’t think about."

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