A third of all targeted attacks are directed at small businesses.

According to the Symantec Intelligence Report for June, 36 per cent of all targeted attacks (58 per day) are directed at small businesses, while large enterprises consisting of more than 2,500 employees are still receiving the greatest number of attacks (69 per day).

Symantec claimed that during the first half of the year, the total number of daily targeted attacks increased at a rate of 24 per cent, with an average of 151 targeted attacks being blocked each day during May and June.

Paul Wood, cyber security intelligence manager at Symantec, said: “There appears to be a direct correlation between the rise in attacks against smaller businesses and a drop in attacks against larger ones. It almost seems attackers are diverting their resources directly from the one group to the other.

“It may be that your company is not the primary target, but an attacker may use your organisation as a stepping-stone to attack another company. You do not want your business to be the weakest link in the supply chain. Information is power, and the attackers know this, and successful attacks can result in significant financial advantage for the cyber criminals behind them. Access to intellectual property and strategic intelligence can give them huge advantages in a competitive market.”

Wood claimed that although targeted attacks are on the increase, they are still very rare. “We regard this as the next evolution of social engineering, where victims are researched in advance and specifically targeted,” Wood said.

The most targeted industry was the defence industry, which receives an average of 7.3 attacks per day. After that it is the chemical/pharmaceutical and manufacturing sectors.