Cyber security a growing issue for small business

Cyber crime is here to stay and small businesses need to be prepared and alert.

That was the message from Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell, to the 2017 Security Exhibition and Conference in Sydney recently.

Ms Carnell said criminals have been targeting small business operators since commerce began.

“What’s changed over the centuries isn’t the act of crime, but how it’s committed,” she said.

“A burglar is just as likely to break into a computer system today as through a smashed window.

“Just about every business with a physical shopfront has an alarm and takes security precautions, but not every business is aware of cyber security and many are sadly at risk of attack.”

Ms Carnell cited the Norton SMB Cyber Security Survey, which showed 19 per cent of respondents had experienced a cyber attack.

The survey also found that 24 per cent of Australian small-medium enterprises did not have an internet security solution.

“Small business owners need to accept responsibility for their own cyber security, just as they would for the physical security of themselves, their staff and their property,” Ms Carnell said.

“This requires vigilance and defence.

“The lack of awareness regarding cyber security is one of the biggest threats facing small business operators today.”

Ms Carnell said there was often a sense of helplessness among small business operators when they report a cyber crime or when they seek assistance or information.

“They don’t always know where to go, but there have been some positive steps,” she said.

“The Australian Government Cyber Security Strategy aligns to that of cyber-aware nations, commits to a framework of national partnerships, fosters cyber awareness and resilience, and seeks to strengthen governance and legislation.

“A 2017 Budget initiative provides $15 million in funding for a small business cyber security program.

“Grants of up to $2100 will be provided to co-fund small businesses to have their cyber security tested by approved service providers.”

For people who may not be technologically savvy, Ms Carnell said the support systems could be difficult to navigate.

“Cyber crime is going to become more sophisticated and more disruptive,” she said.

“Small businesses need to be vigilant and take sensible precautions. Authorities need to be agile and supportive.”

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