Nominet, the internet company best known for running the .uk internet infrastructure, has launched free Nominet Cyber Assist cyber security support for small businesses.
The three-month pilot, which will run in the summer, will research whether an "independent and authoritative advice service" can effectively help businesses detect and combat cyber crime, said Nominet.
While cyber security issues have long been a concern for larger businesses, the increasing reliance on the internet means that small businesses are now vulnerable to the same threats, Nominet said.
A survey conducted by Nominet found that over three quarters (77 percent) of small businesses with 50 or fewer employees have faced at least one cyber security incident in the last month alone, and that on average, incidents took several hours to resolve with 40 percent taking a day or longer.
One in five small businesses said that they had lost money as a result.
When cyber security issues arise, small businesses often don’t know who to turn to for help, said Nominet. In 45 percent of cases, problems are solved either by the business owner in isolation, or with the help of a personal friend or non-technical member of staff.
This figure rises to 61 percent within micro-businesses, those with five employees or less.
Nominet has set up a dedicated team that it says can "deliver the first single, independent, trusted source of cyber security specific information and support" for small firms.
The pilot will invite 1,000 businesses across different sectors to take part. It will offer them free access to "easy-to-understand" advice on protecting their business, as well as help with identifying problems and support to troubleshoot and fix problems.
The pilot’s website with information, guides and FAQs will be a first point of call for any cyber security problems, with telephone and email support available too.
“The bedrock of a secure business is taking sensible precautions,” said Nominet chief technology officer Simon McCalla. “But small businesses’ main focus is being great at what they do, so we understand that they can be very stretched when it comes to dedicating time to cyber security."