What is Cyber Security?
Since the birth of the internet almost three decades ago, protection mechanisms for information assets and the practice of cyber security have considerably evolved. Cyber attacks are increasing in number and sophistication, while our dependence on the internet and other networks are simultaneously growing. As the digital world is increasingly intertwined with a string of cloud computing, smartphones, e-governance, online gaming and internet banking, it is creating more and more avenues for malicious cyber attacks.
Despite the ubiquity of today’s computer systems and networks, there isn’t one universally accepted definition of Cyber Security. Commonly defined as; the practice of protecting networks, systems and programs from digital attacks. These attacks are aimed at retrieving, changing, misusing or destroying critical information. They then result in disrupting business processes or incurring financial losses to the victims.
Why is Cyber Security Important?
Enterprises, governments, financial institutions and hospitals gather, store, and process huge amounts of confidential data online and transmit critical information across their networks. The growing number of sophisticated cyber-attacks have made these entities realise that the threat of malware is on the rise.
Realising this trend, global spending on cyber security funding has been boosted these last few years. According to Australian Cyber Security Growth Network, the current global market for cyber security in 2020 is $173B, with expected growth to $270B by the year 2026. By that year, about 77% of spending will be in externally managed security services. It is expected that by 2026, global spending on external products and services for cyber security will annually increase by 8.4 percent.
Common Types of Cyber Attacks
Though individuals and businesses have begun to implement some cyber security practices, by no means does it indicate that they are totally safe from the risks they pose.
Let’s briefly describe some of the most common cyber threats that individuals and small businesses face and how they can be avoided.
Malware is a short form of malicious software. It refers to any software that is specifically designed to get access into and damage the user’s computer system without their knowledge. Malware can take different forms. It can infiltrate a computer system via spam, stealing login information or crashing your operating systems. Some common types of malware programs include viruses, spyware, worms, trojan horse and botnets.
In a social engineering attack, a cyber-criminal cleverly manipulates users into giving away sensitive information such as credit card or login information. Phishing is one of the most common social engineering techniques. This involves a criminal, sending a deceptive and fraudulent email, asking for the user to click on a link or surrendering away personal information.
Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs)
In APT attacks, an unauthorised user will infiltrate a network undetected. The intention behind APTs is to continuously steal data without harming the network. APT attacks often target industries with highly-sensitive information, such as the finance or defense sector.
Ransomware is a type of malware that locks your device and holds your files hostage until you pay a ransom. Common ransomware types include lockers, crypto-malware and scareware.
Why Small Businesses are at Risk?
Small and medium businesses are more at risk of cyber attacks compared to larger enterprises. This is because corporations are now investing and implementing strict security measures as part of their compulsory fulfillment of business requirements. Many small businesses on the other hand are yet to realise the importance of security. Unfortunately, some business owners only see the dollar value associated in implementing cyber security services. On the attacker’s end, automation has made it much easier for them to attack thousands of small businesses at one time, most of which are easy and vulnerable targets.
Cyber Security for Small and Medium Businesses in Australia
On 6th August, 2020, the Australian government released its cyber security strategy, which has re-emphasized the importance of cyber security resilience at national level. But the SME sector in Australia is still struggling to achieve the required standards.
According to a survey by the Australian Cyber Security Center in 2019, the country’s SME sector is highly vulnerable to cyber threats. Though only 1,763 small and medium businesses responded, which accounts to less than 0.1% of total SMEs, it’s still a first of its kind report which clearly draws attention. It mentions that a significant proportion of SMEs in Australia have inadequate cyber security services in place. This sector contributes substantially to the Australian economy. This statistic therefore indicates a potential risk to the economy at national level.
The survey report also mentions that most SMEs are aware of their exposure to cyber risks. Despite this, they don’t completely understand the severity of underlying vulnerabilities and threats that cause the risk factors.
How can Australian Small to Medium Businesses improve their Cyber Security?
ACSC has released its Small Business Cyber Security Guide, which provides information about all potential cyber threats and related cyber security measures, such as risk mitigation, vulnerability reduction and threat protection. However, instead of a broader approach, business owners understand clear and easy explanations of applicable threats, with examples specific to their industry. Even better would be to break down information into smaller aspects, focusing on specific areas to reduce confusion. For instance, an email policy or an access control policy for small and medium businesses.
To protect against cyber threats, SMEs must adopt security best practices by:
- ensuring password management
- avoiding phishing scams
- conducting regular information security awareness sessions for employees
- implementing access control and network security practices
- securing workstations, servers, and all personal devices of employees
- secure employee browsing experience
SMEs must adopt these best practices. In addition, businesses require solutions such as Intrusion Detection Systems, Firewalls and Antimalware programs, data encryption and backup, and data leakage prevention tools to create and ensure an environment of cyber security in Australia for small and medium businesses. Kaine Mathrick Tech offers a full suite of cyber security services, in one cohesive program.
Australia’s 2020 Cyber Security Strategy will introduce new initiatives for the SME sector. The coming 12 months are critical in seeing how these solutions are brought to life. We need to see a change in the overall cyber resiliency of Australian Small and Medium businesses.
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