The National High Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) has issued draft guidelines on the risks of computer crime, amid concerns that SMEs are losing their way in the battle against hi-tech offences.
The 'framework for protection' for SMEs offers advice on setting and implementing sensible security policies and using security appliances such as firewalls and antivirus applications.
Businesses and industry representatives are invited to offer feedback on the initiative by 19 December, and the NHTCU plans to release a revised version of the guidance early next year.
Tony Neate, NHTCU industry liaison officer, told vnunet.com that many companies are unsure about how to deal with computer crime.
"This is about offering basic advice on the minimum requirements. It is not meant to be an absolute bible, just a reference," he explained.
But publication of the guidelines follows concerns that smaller companies, because of their size, lose out on vital support from the NHTCU.
Instead their only recourse is the local police, whose understanding of computer crime is at best limited and at worse non-existent, security experts have warned.
But Neate defended the Home Office policy, which has earmarked £10m from the NHTCU's budget to train at least one police officer in each police force on computer crime issues.
"It's a start. We're pleased with the money we've got and we're making a big difference," said Neate.
A survey conducted last year by the British Chambers of Commerce found that 60 per cent of SMEs had been victims of computer-related crime, and three-quarters were worried about the security issues of doing business online.
Chris McNab, technical director at security consultancy Matta Security, said: "Small businesses do not have the technical expertise to keep on top of the ever changing hacker landscape relating to internet viruses, worms and determined threats."
Once sound policies are in place, training is key to ensuring that staff are vigilant, according to McNab.
But the complexity of networks, combined with outdated components, meant that implementing a secure business network is a significant challenge for many companies.
Philip Virgo, secretary general of all-party lobby group Eurim, told vnunet.com: "There are holes in [the guidelines] and that's why it's open for consultation.
"Our objective is that there should be a common source of guidance regarding electronic crime.
"The NHTCU is not necessarily the best vehicle, but the NHTCU and the police force have more credibility than any other source."
Yeah, sorry about all that, simpers Zuckerberg
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