Two thirds of UK companies have been targeted by cyberattacks in two years

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Two thirds of UK companies have been targeted by cyberattacks in two years

Two thirds of British companies have been targeted by cyberattacks in the past two years, with cyberattacks being the most common crime.

A survey of big corporations showed that 64 per cent of them had been affected by fraud and other economic crimes during that time - well above the global average and about a 10 per cent increase on the domestic figure from two years ago. The average cost to the companies ranged from 800,000 to nearly 4 million.

The global economic survey conducted by researchers at PwC, the accountancy firm, questioned nearly 1,300 companies, including more than 100 in Britain, and found that 46 per cent had been victims of fraud and economic crime.

In the last survey in 2020, 56 per cent of businesses reported that they had been targeted for fraud against UK companies.

The researchers also highlighted positive trends. The survey found that reported incidents of corruption and bribery had fallen. Ten percent of firms said they had dealt with corruption and bribery over the past two years, compared with 25 percent in the 2020 report. Reports of accounting and financial statement fraud dipped from 26 per cent of companies in 2020 to 10 per cent.

Cybercrime was the most common economic crime to affect British companies. Thirty-two per cent of the respondents said they had suffered cyber breaches, but the trend was down compared to 42 per cent in the 2020 survey.

Cybercrime can be a precursor to other types of crime, according to the report. It said that there is a concern that parties in their supply chain or customer base may be weak links in their defences, given that systems are now more integrated than ever. 19 per cent of firms said they had been victims of supply chain fraud for the first time.

As companies tried to promote their socially responsible credentials through social and governance programmes, they were increasingly vulnerable to making fraudulent claims, according to the researchers.

The authors said that organisations are at increased risk of greenwashing because of the pressure to publish targets, and the shareholder value placed on achieving these - with links frequently put in place between meeting those targets and directors remuneration. This is an attempt to convey a false impression of their environmental credentials. Almost half of UK respondents said that fraud was committed by external fraudsters, compared to 43 per cent globally. The three biggest groups of external fraudsters in the UK were customers, hackers and vendors or suppliers.

The report said that the dips were likely to be temporary and that investments by some organisations in stronger, better designed and implemented compliance programmes and fraud controls have improved defences and that serious fraud is most often detected by forensic technology and internal audits, and that the dips may be triggered by the disruption caused by the coronaviruses. Security procedures and whistleblowers were also responsible for the detection of fraud.

Fran Marwood, a partner at PwC, said it was encouraging that economic crimes have been reduced due to investments made in effective compliance programmes, cyber defences and fraud-prevention controls.