Businesses hold back from online in response to cybercrime threat
Friday 24 November 2017
A national survey of small businesses has found that many small businesses seek to protect their business from Cybercrime by limiting their online presence.
The survey conducted by the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman and State Small Business Commissioners found that 42% of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) limited their online presence as a direct response to cybercrime.
“This is of great concern as many small businesses are not taking advantage of the sales opportunities which exist on a global basis for their product or service,” SA Small Business Commissioner John Chapman said.
“While Cybercrime is a serious issue and one which can cause businesses great difficulty, the risk can be minimized with a structured approach and professional support."
Small businesses can minimise the risk by maintaining their IT systems regularly including installation of recognised security software and new “patch” software which is issued by software providers. Other actions should include regularly changing passwords and having passwords which are difficult to replicate.
Using cloud based systems for emails and data as well as separation of personal and business emails is another preventative measure. Regular back up of all data is critical so that if the IT system is hacked, recovery processes can be undertaken.
Mr Chapman said it was important that IT systems were kept up to date and there were many companies in SA which offered good services to small business to help them protect their business.
The cost of cybercrime to businesses in Australia is rising exponentially and costing Australians an estimated $1 billion each year according to the Federal Government’s Cyber Security Strategy.
“We have seen a number of attacks generated internationally which have affected business in Australia,” Mr Chapman said.
“Many of these attacks come in the form of a virus in an email attachment and the sender then seeks a payment to unlock the data. Another area of cybercrime affecting business is the issuing, usually via email of false invoices for goods and services which have never been provided.
“One of the best defences in this area is for a vigilant accounts section which checks with other parts of the business to ensure the accounts and amounts are legitimate. Always double check any request to alter bank account details for a payment as we have seen reports where significant amounts of funds have been transferred to the wrong place because a fraudster sent an email which looked like it came from the CEO or senior manager.”
Although the survey found that internet usage with SMEs stood at 95%, only 12% of the respondents offered a business website with product viewing or purchasing functionality in South Australia. This compares with 15% nationally and over 20% in Victoria.
Nationally 55% of SME’s surveyed reported that they rarely, or never, sell their goods or services online. Research by Deloitte Access Economics in 2016 found that small businesses were 1.5 times more likely to grow revenue if they had a strong digital footprint.
“There is a great opportunity for SMEs to grow their business in the digital area,” Mr Chapman said. “Like everything in business, it is about understanding your risks and then managing them.”
In South Australia, cybercrime rated as the third biggest risk to SMEs. The top risk was managing overheads and operating expenses followed by chasing money owed and cashflow. Competitors and start-ups disrupting existing businesses rated fourth followed by political uncertainty. South Australian SMEs contributed 20% of the responses to the national survey which is well above traditional state contributions.