A large number of businesses in the UK are putting their sensitive data at risk by failing to fully recognise the threat posed by cyber crime.
This is according to a new study by PwC, which revealed there was a 38 per cent increase in the number of information security incidents detected in 2015 compared with the previous year. However, it also found almost one in ten British enterprises do not know how many attacks they have had in the last 12 months.
The consequences of failing to recognise and respond the attacks quickly could be significant, as the study estimated the average cost of an incident now stands at £1.7 million.
Richard Horne, PwC cyber security partner, commented that businesses cannot afford to stand still in today's increasingly digitised and inter-connected world.
He said: "They need to prepare and continually test their defences - and respond to breaches - in the face of incredibly sophisticated attacks. This requires commitment and leadership from the very top of an organisation to prevent breaches, but also to detect and respond to them rapidly and in the right way when they happen."
One of the biggest challenges for many enterprises is understanding the new risks that have emerged in the past couple of years, and what vulnerabilities they need to be focusing on.
For example, developments such as cloud computing, big data and the Internet of Things (IoT) will require companies to come up with new ways of managing security in order to protect their digital assets. But the survey found some businesses are much more advanced than others when it comes to putting these measures into practice.
While the vast majority of businesses (91 per cent) have adopted a security framework to guide their security efforts and 65 per cent say they collaborate with external organisations to enhance their security, far fewer companies are alert to the dangers posed by technologies such as IoT.
Just 36 per cent of UK respondents stated they have a strategy that specifically addresses this challenge, which could pose problems as such solutions become more prevalent across many verticals.
Other areas that need to be a priority include mobile devices. PwC found that a third of incidents in the UK are the result of exploits aimed at their gadgets.
This comes shortly after a separate study from IDG Research suggested the problem could be even more acute. It claimed three-quarters of IT leaders around the world report their organisation has suffered at least one data breach as the result of a mobile security issue.
As more business activities shift away from traditional desktop and laptop PCs, mobile devices will present an increasingly tempting target to hackers. IDG Research found more than four out of five organisations (82 per cent) say that at last half of their corporate data is now available to users via their mobile gadget.
Mr Horne commented that cyber security is now being viewed by many businesses leaders as the defining challenge of their generation.
He added: "The most innovative companies are rising to the challenges they face, looking at new technology and seeing how they can best protect their assets and reputation to gain competitive advantage."