The proportion of businesses targeted by cyber criminals in the past year increased from 38% to 43%, according to the insurer Hiscox.
The Hiscox Cyber Readiness Report 2021 showed that over a quarter of those business targeted have experienced five attacks or more. These cyber-attacks are pushing many firms to the brink, with one in six businesses attacked saying the financial impact materially threatened the company's future.
The report surveyed a representative sample of organisations in the US, UK, Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Ireland.
It found that around one in every six firms attacked was targeted with ransomware and more than half paid the criminals. In the US, the proportion paying a ransom was 71%. Phishing emails were the main way in for the extortionists, with small companies particularly likely to succumb.
However, the report also showed that firms are responding as spending per business on cyber security has more than doubled in the last two years.
Gareth Wharton, CEO of Hiscox Cyber, commented: 'One of the big takeaways of this report is the worrying range of financial impacts that cyber-attacks can have. The risk of inaction is that the next attack could be enough to sink the business.
'Cyber is a complex problem but that does not mean it is unmanageable. With good risk management and appropriate cyber insurance, firms can contain the impact of an attack and limit the damage.'