One in eight companies in Flanders have fallen victim to cyber-attacks in the past year, and while large companies tend to be more at risk, the consequences are greater in small companies.
A measurement to map out the maturity of cybersecurity in Flemish companies, carried out by Flemish Economy and Innovation Minister Hilde Crevits found that, in 2021, 40% of small SMEs were left with unusable ICT systems due to cyber attacks.
"The results of this baseline measurement are an important barometer for the policy on cyber security. We see that especially small businesses do not arm themselves sufficiently against cyber attacks," Crevits stated.
As a result of the large-scale digitalisation of the economy and society as a whole, Flemish companies are more at risk than ever of such attacks, which in turn is bad for business.
"A company that is hacked is often halted for days and loses the confidence of its own employees as well as customers and suppliers."
SMEs more likely to be damaged
The measurement found that cyber security is mainly a priority for medium-sized and large companies, and even though they are still more likely to experience such attacks, it is mainly smaller companies that suffer the greatest consequences.
As a result of cyber-attacks, one-fifth lost their business data and more than one in ten small SMEs had to deal with data theft.
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Many businesses in the region (94.2%) have taken various measures to protect themselves against cyber risks, but these are rather limited to a number of basic measures that are inadequate given the increased number of cyber risks.
Helping businesses improve cybersecurity
To better protect Flemish businesses against such attacks, Crevits has adjusted some of the conditions of subsidies, including the Flemish Agency for Innovation and Enterprise (VLAIO)'s "Cybersecurity improvement projects" through which companies will receive advice and guidance from recognised cyber security service providers.
Previously, the starting cost of an improvement trajectory was at least €25,000 to qualify for 45% support via VLAIO, however, Crevits has now launched a "light version," a smaller package of guidance and advice whereby the improvement process costs about €10,000 less. Since 1 January 2021, 60 such projects have already been started in Flanders.
Companies can also receive support to invest in cybersecurity via the SME portfolio, which provides financial support for the purchase of services that improve the quality of a company, such as professional information sessions on digital attacks. The support has increased by 10% to 45% for smaller enterprises and to 35% for medium-sized enterprises.