Small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) across the UK are the thriftiest when it comes to IT security, and spend less than any of their counterparts from other countries in Europe, according to research by cloud security firm Panda Security.
The survey found that almost 98 per cent of UK SMBs spend less than £1,000 a year on security software, and around half spend less than £300 a year.
Some 57 per cent of UK businesses surveyed use free security software for their desktop PCs, which is well over the European average of 38 per cent. However, in most cases, these same companies are failing to protect and update servers and applications.
Panda's research also revealed that anti-virus software is the main protection used by UK SMBs, followed by firewalls, anti-spyware, anti-spam and web filters.
"Saving pennies in this day and age by using free security software shows smart thinking by UK SMBs," said Nigel Stanley, practice leader for security at analyst firm Bloor Research.
"My biggest concern is the 22 per cent that don't have, or don't know if they have, security software. Any business of any size that operates without security software is behaving recklessly, and needs to sort themselves out or they won't have a business left after they get hit by a malware attack."
However, despite not spending much on security, UK infection rates are among the lowest in Panda's findings. Just 38 per cent of respondents had experienced any infections from internet threats, significantly lower than the European average of 68 per cent.
"The report holds both good and bad news about the security practices of British businesses," said Luis Corrons, technical director of PandaLabs.
"In spite of the low levels of spending, the level of protection offered by free software seems to be keeping infections at reasonable levels in comparison to other European countries.
"However, there is a worryingly high number of companies that appear to be burying their heads in the sand and failing to protect themselves against internet-borne threats."
Panda's nod to the effectiveness of free software ties in with Microsoft's re-entry into the software security market with the launch of its free Security Essentials package. Rivals such as Symantec, however, claim that the Microsoft product does not offer adequate protection.
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