The government has launched a 'cyber essentials' scheme as part of wider efforts to encourage consumers and businesses to stay safe online.
The 'cyber essentials' award provides firms with a recognised cyber security assurance certification, allowing them to advertise the fact that they take cyber security seriously.
In order to become accredited, companies have to carry out a self-assessment which is then independently verified by a certification body such as CREST [Council of Registered Ethical Security Testers].
From 1 October, suppliers bidding for government contracts which involve personal and sensitive information will be required to be certified under the scheme. Further details on this are due to be released this summer, according to the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS).
The department explained that BAE Systems, Barclays and Hewlett-Packard are among the first businesses to apply for the award.
Small businesses such as Skyscape, Nexor and Tier 3 are also adopting the scheme, along with the University of Derby, the Confederation of British Industry and the Institute of Chartered Accountants.
Research by the Federation of Small Businesses conducted last year found that small businesses lose about £800 million every year as a result of online crime.
Universities and science minister David Willetts said: "The recent GOZeuS and CryptoLocker attacks, as well as the Ebay hack, show how far cyber criminals will go to steal people's financial details, and we absolutely cannot afford to be complacent."
"We already spend more online than any other major country in the world, and this is in no small part because Britain is already a world leader in cybersecurity. Developing this new scheme will give consumers further confidence that business and government have defences in place to protect against the most common cyber threats."
However, some have said that the scheme does not go far enough.
McAfee's public sector strategy director Graeme Stewart said: "We hope this is a first step in going much further. Some of the biggest problems relate to user awareness and data shared outside the organisation - if this programme were to evolve to incorporate these issues it would be a really powerful tool."
Ernst & Young's information security director Mark Brown warned that, once certified, businesses should not be complacent.
He said: "The CES represents another important step in the right direction to ensure that businesses have the right guidance to deploy effective cyber security standards.
Brown added: "it only addresses the basic controls and is therefore representative of the entry level fundamentals which should be adhered tobusinesses need to make sure they are going above and beyond this to ensure they are fully protected."
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