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Unlocking small business cyber safety: tackling an urgent national problem.

Australian small businesses face cyber security threats every day. Yet many don’t believe their business could be a target. The belief that being small makes you safe, is a dangerous fallacy leading to inaction on cyber safety.

25 March 2024: In an era where digital threats loom large and attacks are increasing on small businesses, the need to understand how to help small businesses fortify their cyber defences has never been more urgent.

New research out today from the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA) and Cyber Wardens provides deep insights into what motivates cyber secure and insecure behaviour inside small businesses, allowing us to map a path toward creating a culture of cyber security in all small businesses.

Almost 2,100 Australian small businesses participated in the Cyber Wardens research to provide evidence of the attitudes, concerns, awareness and behaviours relating to cyber security.

Key findings from the research demonstrate that the factors that drive the preparedness of small businesses against a cyber attack are far more complex than the size, age or type of business.
50% of Australian small businesses see cyber security as a high risk to their business in the next five years, while conversely, 45% see cyber security threats as a low to non-existent risk, highlighting the significant divide in attitudes around cyber risks. And 7 in 10 (67%) small business owners/CEOs and employees said major cyber attacks on big companies had made them think more about cyber security, however, this isn’t necessarily translating into small businesses doing more to help protect themselves.

Crucially, the research underscores the pivotal role of cultivating a cyber-safe mindset within small businesses. The most cyber-safe small businesses have a cyber-centric outlook and are intentional in their approach to cyber security. They think and talk about cyber security regularly and see it as everyone’s responsibility. They also dedicate resources and embed cyber security into day-to-day operations.

Most small businesses (61%) are not talking about cyber security regularly, which further increases the risk they face. And on average, 4 in 10 small businesses have little to no confidence in their ability to respond to a cyber threat.

Even when small businesses see the value in embracing a culture of cyber security they face several barriers. They don’t know where to begin with cyber security. They feel intimidated by technical jargon, overwhelmed by not knowing what steps to take, and doubtful that they have the time, resources and digital literacy to protect their businesses against cyber threats.

The COSBOA Cyber Wardens program comes at a pivotal moment, addressing the pressing need for simple and achievable cyber security measures tailored to small businesses. Amid escalating cyber threats, the program provides a lifeline for businesses eager to bolster their cyber resilience without being overwhelmed by technical jargon or complex protocols.

An overwhelming majority of small business owners and employees (86%) express keen interest in a program that simplifies cyber security and renders it attainable for businesses of all sizes.

Moreover, there’s a resounding acknowledgement of the value of having team members adept at identifying and responding to cyber threats. This not only safeguards the business but also enhances job security, fosters better client relationships, and instils peace of mind among stakeholders.

This research is the first step in understanding what small businesses need to do, what might be standing in their way and what we can do to support them. From the survey, focus groups and in-depth interviews, five attitudinal and behavioural segments have been developed. These segments will help inform the national delivery of the Cyber Wardens program and instil the cultural change and technical uplift that Australian small businesses need to protect themselves.

At the launch of the research in Canberra today, attendees will be able to contribute to the design of the next Cyber Wardens resources to support building a culture of cyber safety in Australian small businesses. As businesses gear up to embrace the digital frontier, the Cyber Wardens program stands ready to empower them with the knowledge and resources needed to navigate this landscape securely.

The Cyber Wardens program is the vehicle for this national cultural change and supports the technical uplift needed to protect Australian small businesses from evolving and increased cyber threats.

Download full media release below or read full research report here.

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