Online crime: NI businesses lose more than £2m
Businesses in Northern Ireland lost more than £2m to online crime last year, statistics have shown.
Figures from Get Safe Online and Action Fraud show 247 cases were reported, with total losses to £2,152,343.
Police believe the overall figure could be higher, as some businesses choose not to report cybercrime losses.
Nationally, online losses last year amounted to £1bn - a 22% increase on the previous year.
Det Ch Insp Douglas Grant, from the PSNI's cybercrime centre, said that, while the figures for Northern Ireland are below the national average, they are a cause for concern and highlight a need for local businesses to train their staff to spot warning signs.
On average, each police force in the UK recorded more than £19m in losses by businesses in their area.
The internet security awareness initiative, Get Safe Online, believes businesses need to do more to ensure staff have appropriate online fraud awareness training, so that everyone understands their role in keeping the business secure.
Tony Neate, chief executive of the organisation, said: "These latest figures show the enormous, and quite frankly, daunting impact online crime can have on a business, its reputation, its employees and even its continued operation."
Det Ch Insp Grant said a substantial amount of attempted fraud against businesses is successful because of "a lack of knowledge or sloppy habits by employees".
"Businesses must watch out for email compromise, which is becoming an increasingly worrying issue," he said.
"This occurs when a fraudster gets victims to change a direct debit or standing order by pretending to be an organisation that a victim makes regular payments to.
"It's an extremely targeted approach, with 30 cases reported in Northern Ireland alone in the last year, and £768,115 lost."
Det Ch Insp Grant said employee fraud - in which employees or ex-employees obtain property or compensation through fraud, or misuse of corporate cards and expenses - is also on the rise, with 15 cases recorded from March 2015 to March 2016 and £242,002 lost.
"It is vital for all businesses to provide their staff with the right tools and training to be able to identify signs of fraud or suspicious activity, before it's too late, as well as having guidelines in place on whistle-blowing."
He said hacking is another major concern: "A fraudster can hack into a business's server, an employee's personal computer, or access email and social media accounts to obtain private information.
"In its various forms, hacking is one of the most widely reported types of fraud in the UK over the past 12 months."