LONDON (Reuters) - The financial damage to British companies from cyber security breaches has doubled in the past year, according to a government-commissioned survey released on Tuesday.
Though the number of companies hit by information security breaches was down on the previous 12 months, the survey found that the severity and impact of attacks has increased.
The average cost of the worst cyber security breach for big companies was between 600,000 pounds ($1 million) and 1.2 million pounds, up from 450,000-850,000 pounds in the 2013 survey.
Cyber attacks on companies in Europe and the United States have increased in regularity and severity in recent years as "hacktivists" and criminals become increasingly sophisticated, requiring businesses to strengthen their defenses.
Royal Bank of Scotland reported in December that an attack by hackers had caused problems for customers accessing their accounts.
British Business Secretary Vince Cable this year said that cyber security is "a top-tier national security priority" and key industries, including finance, energy and transport, have been told to improve plans to protect against disruption to essential services.
The survey, carried out by PwC, found that 81 percent of big companies suffered a security breach, down from 86 percent in the 2013 study, with most companies having increased their spending on IT security.
(Reporting by Steve Slater; Editing by David Goodman)