THE UK Government is being urged to help small businesses tackle cyber crime after new research suggested they are being subjected to almost 10,000 attacks a day.

A survey of more than 1100 smaller firms showed that one in five reported a cyber attack had been committed against its business in the last two years.

More than seven million individual attacks are reported over the same period, equating to 9741 a day, said the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

The annual cost of the attacks is estimated to be £4.5 billion, with the average cost of an individual attack put at £1300, said the report.

More than half a million small firms were hit by a phishing attempt from such an attack over the past two years, while others reported malware or fraudulent payment requests, said the FSB.

Those based in the North West, South East and West Midlands are most likely to be the victims of cyber attacks, the study indicated. One in three small firms said it has not installed security software over the past two years, while four in 10 did not regularly update software.

Martin McTague of the FSB said: “The issue of business crime is overlooked too often, even more so of late in this climate of sustained political uncertainty and inaction. Meaningful steps must be taken to safeguard our small firms, and by extension the wider economy.

“The Government should be doing more to tackle this scourge by enhancing the current policing response, including investing more in cyber upskilling for police personnel as part of its wider recruitment push.”

Meanwhile, listed British firms posted their weakest performance in three years over the last quarter as the economic slowdown took its toll, data has revealed.

Brexit uncertainty and trade tensions weighed on the UK’s biggest public companies, according to the Share Centre’s Profit Watch UK report for the three months to June. The retail stockbroker’s analysis revealed that a third of FTSE 350 companies posted lower sales in the second quarter.

Firms saw revenues inch up 1.6% for the period, but growth was largely sustained due to the devaluation of the pound, amid traders’ concerns over the increased likelihood of a No-Deal Brexit.