The UK government has launched a voucher scheme aimed at preparing small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) against the threat of cyber attacks.
The initiative will offer successful candidates up to £5,000 for specialist advice in how to protect their data, and £1m has been made available for vouchers. It is part of a wider £860m investment into cyber security taking place from 2011 to 2016.
Applicants will need to demonstrate that they fall into the SMB category and that cyber security is a challenge for their business that means they need to look for specialist help.
Innovate UK, which is sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, is running the voucher scheme alongside the government. Innovate UK awards vouchers once every three months in January, April, July and October. Eligible applications are put into a draw and winners are chosen at random.
Digital economy minister Ed Vaizey has claimed the scheme will offer increased protection for small businesses.
"We want to help protect UK businesses against cyber attacks and make the UK the safest place in the world to do business online," he said.
Last year, it was reported that up to 60 percent of small businesses had experienced a cyber-breach, with the average cost of the worst breaches ranging from £65,000 to £115,000.
"The internet brings huge business opportunities and benefits. But it also brings risks. Every day there are attacks on the IT systems of UK companies," the report said.
As a result of this focus on security, the government has also launched an online learning and careers hub aimed to offer a ‘cyber skills talent pool'.
The digital economy minister said the hub was designed to help address the cyber security skills shortage by attracting new people into the industry. It will feature careers information, advice, internship opportunities and training courses.
"This is an important development which supports the Government's commitment to encouraging more young people to develop cyber security skills," said Vaizey.
"Increasing the cyber skills talent pool is essential for both the public and private sectors as we face the reality of increasing cyber threats."
According to the government, the UK cyber security industry currently employs an estimated 40,000 people and is worth £17.6bn.
Earlier this year, the government announced a Cyber First programme designed to find and train the next generation of security professionals with the aim of recruiting 20 "talented individuals" and providing £4,000 worth of funding per person.
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