Sydney, Nov 1: A recent study commissioned by Mastercard has unveiled the eye-opening scope of cyberattacks among Australia’s small business leaders, with 309,000 saying they have experienced cybersecurity issues.
Of those impacted, 33 per cent claim they experienced financial losses as a result.
Despite the surge in cybercrime reports in the last year, a substantial 31 per cent of small business leaders have been compelled to trim their cybersecurity budgets due to the mounting cost pressures. Furthermore, 63 per cent assert that they are actively seeking to reduce overall business expenses amid the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.
As consumer spending dwindles, small business leaders are channelling their attention towards revenue-generating activities, with 62 per cent focusing on customer acquisition, 60 per cent on nurturing client relationships, and 54 per cent on fostering growth.
Alarmingly, cybersecurity is now considered a lower priority at just 22 per cent, even though 52 per cent express concerns about the risks of cyberattacks. Notably, the cost of cybersecurity investments, cited by 52 per cent, remains a significant deterrent.
Sina Klug, owner of Nutie Donuts, a gluten-free cake shop in Sydney, commented, “Cybersecurity is a consideration, however, it isn’t necessarily top of mind day-to-day, especially as the rest of our operating costs continue to increase.”
The study identifies cost as the primary barrier for small businesses to explore their cybersecurity options (47 per cent), with time (31 per cent), a lack of knowledge of the solutions available (30 per cent), and the threats in existence (24 per cent) also high on the list.
Astonishingly, 66 per cent of small business owners indicate they would make more effort to put security features in place if they were aware of all the cybersecurity risks, while 68 per cent believe they would benefit from simple cybersecurity resources to get them started.
To address this pressing issue, Mastercard has collaborated with Jackson Henry, a 17-year-old ethical hacker known for identifying vulnerabilities in the United Nations’ systems.
Henry gained recognition in 2021 for identifying a flaw that could have exposed over 100,000 personally identifiable records.
Together with Mastercard, he aims to educate small businesses on common cybersecurity vulnerabilities and equip them with actionable insights to better secure their systems.
Introducing “Cyber Secure in 60 Seconds”
This 10-part series, available today on Mastercard’s YouTube and social channels, aims to empower small business owners to take action when it comes to cybersecurity.
“I’ve worked with businesses of all sizes, all around the world, and the pitfalls are relatively similar across the board.
However, small businesses, often don’t know where to start, and lack the time, resources, and budget of larger organizations, making it difficult for them to upskill in an area which is table stakes for businesses big and small,” said Henry.
The series covers the ten most common vulnerabilities a bad actor may seek to exploit, along with clear, cost-effective, and achievable actions business owners can take to safeguard themselves, including educating and training employees, using strong, unique passwords, implementing multi-factor authentication, updating software regularly, using anti-virus software, limiting access rights, backing up data securely and regularly, exercising caution against phishing, enhancing email filtering, and developing a cybersecurity policy and incident response plan.
Malika Sathi, Vice President, of Cyber & Intelligence Solutions and Digital Identity, Australasia at Mastercard, emphasized the importance of small businesses taking action to protect themselves against cyber threats.
She stated, “As data breaches and cybercrime pose real financial and reputational risks, it’s more important than ever for small business owners to educate themselves on cybersecurity.”
“As an ethical hacker, Jackson provides unique and incredibly impactful insight into the vulnerabilities a small business may face. In partnering with him, Mastercard hopes to arm business owners with a clear way to tackle the problem that doesn’t have to be complex or expensive,” Sathi concludes.
Ethically Hacking a Small Business: To demonstrate the importance of good cyber hygiene, Henry worked with Sina Klug at Nutie Donuts to demonstrate how a bad actor may attempt to gain access to their systems.
“Nutie Donuts had a lot of best practice measures in place, including awareness of phishing and employee training. However, I identified three key flaws in their current security protocol: lack of two-factor authentication, using common passwords, and the same WiFi network for both public and business matters, that could have been exploited by someone who knew what they were doing,” said Henry.
“As a cake shop, my business is relatively low risk when it comes to cyber attacks, but it was a real eye-opener to see the gaps in our defences that I would have otherwise had no idea existed,” said Klug.
This study and educational initiative by Mastercard underscores the pressing need for small businesses to enhance their cybersecurity measures to protect against the growing threat of cyberattacks.
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