A minority of UK small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are giving high priority to cyber threats, research has revealed.

Although cyber threats are gaining recognition among SMEs, there is a clear need to raise awareness and protection, according to the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).

Threats to systems are increasing and new vulnerabilities are emerging daily, said Hugh Boyes, the IET’s cyber security expert.

“We are working to raise awareness among the UK engineering and technology community of the need to improve the cyber security of both our critical national infrastructure and all the technology we use,” he said.

The IET surveyed 250 SMEs to gain insight into current cyber trends, and found that only half were aware of the UK’s national cyber security strategy.

The survey also revealed that only 14% saw cyber security threats as a top priority and felt that they had sufficient skills and resources in place to manage the threat.

Only 30% felt they had sufficient protection against potential threats to software embedded in their products.

The IET is supporting a number of initiatives aimed at tackling these problems, such as the Trustworthy Software Initiative.

This is a public-private partnership aimed at making available the knowledge, experience and capabilities that already exist in the UK about trustworthy software development.

As part of this initiative, material is being developed for use on computer science and engineering degree courses to explain the principles of trustworthy software development.

The IET is also leading an initiative with the BCS – The Chartered Institute for IT, the Institute of Information Security Professionals (IISP), e-skills UK and the Information Assurance Advisory Council (IAAC) to develop a scheme to provide sponsorship for cyber security master of science (Msc) courses at selected UK universities.

This initiative is being developed in collaboration with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), GCHQ, the Office for Cyber Security and Information Assurance (OCSIA).

It is aimed at giving sponsored students cyber security skills they can apply in their current job, or the opportunity to develop a career in a cyber security role.

The pilot scheme will be launching this year at three UK universities, and there are plans to expand further in future years, said the IET.