Leapfrogging cyber hurdles for small businesses

Jason Stevens

Private and public sector discussions intensify around cybersecurity threats to small businesses (SMBs) in Australia, with ransomware attacks up by 15 per cent annually. 

As cyber criminals increasingly target SMBs, government leaders, security vendors, and industry organisations canvassed possible initiatives to help make them more resilient and secure. A recent roundtable hosted by InnovationAus.com and Mimecast focused on long-term cyber-readiness solutions to bring SMBs on par with larger enterprises.  

The cyber, privacy and risk leaders’ whitepaper explored the roundtable’s insights, including making cybersecurity more affordable and effective. 

Australia’s SMBs are the economy’s lifeblood, forming 95 per cent of all businesses. A cyber-attack can cripple a small business, leading to lost revenue and job losses, directly affecting a local community’s economic health. Ultimately, society bears the costs resulting from SMBs’ inadequate cybersecurity. 

The national importance of SMBs’ cyber resilience calls for governmental and institutional support. Cybersecurity is everyone’s business. SMBs cannot meet these challenges alone, particularly when one considers that 97 per cent of sole traders adopt a DIY approach to cybersecurity. Research shows that business health is intimately linked to sound cyber readiness.  

The discussion articulates the key challenge: “How can SMBs be incentivised, or constrained, to protect the personal data they hold?” 

With a large shift away from manufacturing towards professional services in Australia, as noted by the Productivity Commission, the government can compel SMBs vying for state contracts to boost their cybersecurity posture. Demanding the same standards of SMBs as larger corporations will protect national supply chains, enforcing a more robust cybersecurity infrastructure locally and nationally. 

In the same way hospitals and healthcare institutions prepare for natural disasters like floods, SMBs should be educated and enticed to deliver similar contingency plans, protecting the community’s digital health.  

Most small businesses collect personal information without realising its significance or the risks that come with it, both for them and the people it refers to. Education consequently remains a hurdle. The whitepaper draws attention to national advertising campaigns to educate business owners on the perils of weak cybersecurity. 

Adverts could offer positive reinforcement showing how similar companies successfully traverse cyber threats and improve their digital health. Alternative approaches could highlight horror stories where companies leaked personal data from ransomware attacks.  

In both cases, stakeholders agreed it was essential to stimulate action and show the hurdles were not insurmountable. 

While critical infrastructure legislation pressures SMBs to protect sensitive customer and financial data, additional motivation needs to come from supply chain leaders. For instance, suppliers to SMBs, including accounting, payroll, and telco firms, are in a powerful position to advise and share their expertise on cyber resilience and sensitive data storage.  

This cross-chain cyber partnership is desirable since small businesses account for 35 per cent of economic output. Additionally, the stakes are even higher since the COVID-19 pandemic led to a surge in remote working and online collaboration, significantly increasing the cyber health risks of the Australian digital economy.  

As cyber threats increase across the digital landscape in Australia, a coordinated approach is critical across the public and private realms. While government should continue to compel SMBs to comply with cybersecurity best practices, larger supply chain partners should provide additional support.  

Their expertise and knowledge can help offset cyber risks and improve the digital health of smaller players.  

Additionally, the government should consider adopting financial and support models to help make cybersecurity education and technology available to SMBs.  

Download your copy of Insights into the cybersecurity challenges of Australia’s lifeblood, SMBs, produced by InnovationAus.com in partnership with Mimecast here. 

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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