Mid-2023 Cyber Threat Briefing for UK SME Sector

As we move through 2023, the cyber threat landscape continues to evolve, yet some things remain the same. The UK SME sector, like many others around the globe, continues to grapple with the same old, same old threats that have been prevalent for years. Phishing and ransomware attacks remain a significant concern, with attackers becoming increasingly sophisticated in their methods. However, the landscape is not static. We’re seeing a rise in supply chain attacks, a trend that is becoming increasingly popular among cybercriminals.

Despite these challenges, it’s important to note that SMEs, due to their smaller and often closer working nature, have some built-in strengths that can bolster their cybersecurity posture. The ability to quickly communicate and implement changes can be a significant advantage in responding to threats and maintaining a robust security stance.

Current Threat Landscape

  1. Ransomware Attacks: Ransomware attacks have been a significant threat in 2023. A notable example is the attack on a major healthcare provider, which resulted in the theft of sensitive patient data and a disruption of services. The attack led to a temporary shutdown of the provider’s systems, impacting thousands of patients and costing the organization millions in recovery and remediation costs. Source
  2. Supply Chain Attacks: Supply chain attacks have also been prevalent. A significant incident involved a software vendor whose update mechanism was compromised, leading to the distribution of malicious updates to unsuspecting customers. This attack not only affected the software vendor but also had a ripple effect on its clients, causing significant financial and reputational damage. Source
  3. Phishing Attacks: Phishing attacks continue to be a common threat. In one instance, a UK-based SME fell victim to a sophisticated phishing attack that resulted in a significant data breach. The attack led to the exposure of sensitive customer data, resulting in regulatory fines and a loss of customer trust. Source

Actionable Steps for SMEs

“In reality, there’s no such thing as ‘too small to be attacked.’ If your company works with any type of digital data, it’s a target for bad actors. While a small business may not have the resources to employ a full-time tech team, there are easy, affordable strategies it can leverage to boost its cybersecurity stance.” – Forbes Technology Council

Here are some actionable steps SMEs can take to improve their security:

  1. Implement a strong password policy: Ensure that all employees are using strong, unique passwords. Consider implementing a password manager for your organization. How to Create a Strong Password
  2. Regularly update and patch systems: Keeping software and systems up to date is crucial in protecting against known vulnerabilities. Microsoft Guide to Software Updates
  3. Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA): MFA adds an additional layer of security that can significantly reduce the risk of successful cyber attacks. How to Use Microsoft Authenticator
  4. Regular backups: Regularly back up data and ensure that backups are protected from ransomware. Microsoft Guide to Backing Up Data
  5. Employee training: Train employees on cybersecurity best practices and how to spot phishing attempts. Microsoft Cybersecurity Awareness Toolkit
  6. Firewalls and antivirus software: Use firewalls and antivirus software to protect your network and computers from malware and other threats. Microsoft Guide to Windows Security
  7. Limit user access: Implement the principle of least privilege (PoLP) and only grant access rights to employees that are necessary for their work. Understanding User Account Control (UAC)
  8. Incident response plan: Have an incident response plan in place so that you can respond effectively to a cyber attack. Microsoft Guide to Incident Response

By implementing these steps, SMEs can significantly improve their cybersecurity posture and reduce the risk of cyber attacks.


While the threat landscape is evolving, SMEs can significantly improve their security posture by taking these actionable steps. The inherent agility and close-knit nature of SMEs can be leveraged to quickly respond to threats and implement changes, providing a unique strength in their cybersecurity approach. By investing in cybersecurity awareness and implementing robust security measures, SMEs can protect their valuable data and maintain the trust of their customers.