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Small businesses are still failing to recognise the dangers of cybercrime, according to new research.

A report, by Bibby Financial Services, reveals that small business owners are leaving themselves exposed to computer viruses and hackers, and risking major disruption to their daily operations.

Despite the fact that small businesses are willing to embrace new technologies (78 per cent now have Internet access), 12 per cent of respondents still have no anti-virus software in place to protect valuable data.

This is in spite of the fact that 43 per cent of the country's small firms have been affected by a computer virus at some time.

Increasing cases of cybercrime costs European business £14.7bn to clean up and recover, while virus outbreaks can cost businesses an average of 5000 to resolve.

David Robertson, chief executive at Bibby, said: "It is disappointing that while small firms are willing to invest in new technology, a significant minority are still unaware of how vulnerable access to the internet can leave them.

"This year has seen more viruses than ever before and they are becoming increasingly severe. Purchasing the latest state-of-the-art laptop or connecting to broadband is not enough, business owners and managers need to put IT security at the top of their business agenda."

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