Forty four per cent of small businesses in the West Midlands have been a victim of cyber crime, according to new research.
The study, commissioned by the Get Safe Online campaign, showed the a wide number of SMEs were at risk from internet scams, identity fraud, phishing and data theft.
Of those businesses affected, more than a third (36 per cent) have suffered a computer virus and almost one in five (18 per cent) have been a victim of internet scams such as phishing, spyware or hacking in the last two years.
As online scams become increasingly sophisticated, the research also highlighted that only five per cent of small businesses have access to dedicated IT support - either internally or via an outsourced provider.
Instead, many business owners have to take it upon themselves to keep up with the latest online security issues.
The research also showed that cyber crime and other IT problems could be having a significant impact on the region's small business community.
Sixty per cent of those surveyed said their businesses would grind to a halt if their IT system failed. Of those who had experienced online crime or other IT-related problems, almost a fifth (19 per cent) said they lost revenue as a result of downtime, the average figure cited as £778.
Get Safe Online, a joint government and industry initiative, said it called on smaller enterprises to make sure they're taking adequate steps to protect their business.
Sharon Lemon, head of e-crime at the Serious Organised Crime Agency, said: "It is relatively simple for businesses, however small, to keep one step ahead of the crooks.
"I urge all small businesses to use the new leaflet at www.getsafeonline.org to secure their online business today. The cost to livelihoods and the economy is too high to ignore the threat of cyber crime."
The research also found that two-thirds (66 per cent) of businesses surveyed store vital documents on their PCs and 69 per cent also store their customer details on IT equipment, yet less than a third (32 per cent) consider themselves to be fully up-to-date with current PC/internet security issues.
This makes not only business owners, but also their customers, vulnerable to the risks of online security.
But 97 per cent of those surveyed in our research protect their IT equipment with anti-virus software.
Managing director of Get Safe Online, Tony Neate, said: "The good news is that small businesses are taking the general basic steps to protect themselves.
"However, as cyber crime becomes more sophisticated, basic measures aren't enough on their own. Businesses also must look at access control, data encryption and secure password practices, as well as looking at other measures such as staff training.
"But, it's also important to remember that by taking a few simple precautions, online risks needn't overshadow the huge benefits that the internet brings to UK businesses."