Only 2% of small Australian businesses bother about online security

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Australian cyber security threats investigated by the ASD from 2011-14
Australian cyber security threats investigated by the ASD from 2011-14 Australian Cyber Security Centre/The Australian

Small business owners in Australia continue to place a low priority on boosting their online security despite attention-grabbing headlines worldwide about the destructive financial and social costs of hack attacks.

The Department of Communications and the Arts has revealed dismaying results about the online security practices of small businesses. The research commissioned by the department found that cyber criminals are increasingly targeting small businesses because of their vulnerability and lax security systems.

The government’s research also found a low level of online threat awareness among small business owners. Surprisingly, only 25 percent of these people believe they are at risk of having their electronic systems broken into. Equally astounding is that only 38 percent considered phishing and scams a threat to their businesses.

Another bothersome statistic: only 48 percent of firms bothered to keep their anti-virus software up to date.

Federal security agencies last July warned that Australia is being hit by unrelenting attacks from cyber criminals. The number of cyber attacks has tripled over the last three years and is expected to cost the economy over AU$1 billion in malicious damage.

The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), which coordinates the work of six federal security agencies, said the threat from cyber crime was “undeniable, unrelenting and continues to grow”.

Threats to Australian businesses have also increased. The Computer Emergency Response Team Australia responded to 11,073 security incidents in 2014. The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), the Australian spy agency, has taken measures to counter the 20 percent rise in the number of cyber-security threats in 2014, said The Australian.

In response to these troubling statistics, the government has developed the “Stay Smart Online Small Business Guide” to help small businesses beef-up their online security practices. Launched on Oct. 12 as part of the Stay Smart Online Week, the guide was developed along with Australia Post, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, the Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank, Westpac and Telstra.

The guide can be downloaded at www.staysmartonline.gov.au. Small business owners can also subscribe to the free alert service.

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