The new user friendly guide to SME cyber security

| January 6, 2018

A new Cyber Security Best Practice Guide has been developed to help busy small and mid-sized business operators understand the risks of cyber crime and take simple but effective measures to prevent cyber attacks.

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman published the guide after research showed 60 per cent of small firms that experienced a cyber breach went of business within the following six months.

Cyber security encompasses a range of strategies to protect businesses and individuals from being compromised while online. Anyone using the internet on any device is at risk of cyber-attack from hackers who steal, trick or ransom businesses out of their money as well as the loss or corruption of data by bad practice.

The problem is that over a third of small businesses with fewer than 100 employees don’t take proactive measures to protect against cyber-attacks, and most are happy that their anti-virus software will do the trick.

Ombudsman Kate Carnell said many small businesses lacked time and resources but couldn’t afford to be complacent about cyber security. The guide offers simple principles of prevention, well-being and response to protect companies and emphasises the need to seek help when required.

“Surveys have shown that 87 per cent of small businesses believe antivirus software alone is enough to keep them safe,” Ms Carnell said, however “Cyber criminals are becoming more sophisticated and small businesses are particularly vulnerable. Online threats are just as real as physical threats. Cyber security needs to be taken seriously, like having locks on your doors and a burglar alarm.”

The new guide aims to highlight the issue of cyber security as it affects small businesses and demonstrate the importance of a cyber security policy for all firms using the internet. As well as recommending best practice principles and actions to protect SMEs, it also highlight the best places to go for more information.

Ms Carnell said the handy guide suggests discussing the issue with a trusted adviser. “Accountants, IT specialists and skilled family or friends are the go-to sources. There are also useful government websites that provide simple, easy-to-understand advice.”

Ms Carnell said small businesses shouldn’t be afraid of “going online” because the opportunities and benefits of the digital approach could be immense.

“Many small businesses have successfully blended their physical and virtual shopfronts to establish sustainable operating models,” she said. “It would be an incredible shame if small businesses shut themselves out of the online market because of fears about cybersecurity.

“There are risks attached to most activities, even crossing the road. Taking sensible precautions broadens opportunities and heightens the rewards.”

To complement the Small Business Best Practice Guide, the ASBFEO will also issue a more detailed Small Business Best Practice Research Report with more information on the recommended actions that small businesses adopt to become cyber secure.