The government has launched a new voucher scheme to help small and medium sized businesses protect themselves against online attacks.

SMEs can bid for up to £5,000 funding each from a £1 million pot, to help them buy specialist advice to boost their online security and protect their intellectual property. Innovate UK, the government's innovation agency, will administer the scheme.

Ed Vaizey FT
An information security survey this year found three-quarters of small businesses have experienced a breach © Financial Times

An information security survey this year found three-quarters of small businesses have experienced a security breach, costing anything from £75,200 to £310,800, and the rate of attacks is rising rapidly.

The scheme, due to launch later this month, is part of package of initiatives aimed at increasing UK businesses’ resilience to online attacks unveiled by digital economy minister Ed Vaizey today.

Vaizey also launched an ‘Inspired Careers’ online skills and career hub, developed by industry body CREST and the government, aimed at tackling the skills shortage in cyber security.

The hub includes career tips and advice, vacancies for interns, apprentices, work experience and senior staff, plus academic and professional training courses.

The government promised it will be a “powerful tool to promote to cyber security profession and encourage the next generation of cyber specialists to help protect the UK”.

The UK cyber security industry is worth £17.6 billion and employs over 40,000 people. The number of jobs within the sector is growing rapidly, doubling from 2013 to 2014, according to IT jobs site Technojobs.

Vaizey said the government aimed to “make the UK the safest place in the world to do business online”.

The voucher scheme and new online hub will “help ensure we have the skilled workforce in place to manage the increased pressures of the digital age”, he promised.

“The UK’s economy is increasingly underpinned by digital infrastructure, so cyber security is now a critical component”, Innovate UK’s innovation and technology director Kevin Baughan said.

“The UK now has the opportunity to become a world leader in cyber security, creating the jobs of tomorrow and driving productivity and growth,” he added.