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When thinking about cyber security, it may help to draw an analogy with protecting your own home. Most people have a front door with a lock on it, but if you really want to deter criminals, you put a security screen in place or a burglary system, and maybe even have a guard dog in your yard as well. Those measures are a good deterrent but equally important is the behaviour of your family and any others you share the home with, to close and lock doors and not leave any windows open. When everyone is aware and alert of the risks, it will minimise the opportunity for crime to occur.

The same rules apply when wanting to keep your business safe from cybercrime. The right crime-fighting tools and measures are essential, but a culture where people are aware of the risks and have this top of mind will make all the difference in succeeding to keep your business safe. This article will explore ways that you can protect your business against cybercrime. 

Cybercrime Thrives in COVID Times

Now is the time to be even more vigilant. With the onset of the global health crisis, online fraud and phishing attempts have become increasingly problematic. Many fraudsters are seeking to exploit fears over the COVID pandemic and new work from home routines. The Australian Cyber Security Centre revealed a raft of local examples.

For example, one scheme involved fraudulent emails that appeared to come from the World Health Organisation. These emails requested donations to a false COVID-19 Response Fund.

Other scams have purported to provide useful, but ultimately malicious, information regarding infection maps or details about testing stations. These scams did this in an attempt to steal sensitive data from the recipient’s device, including usernames and passwords.

ScamWatch, run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), provides information to consumers and small businesses about how to recognise, avoid and report scams. Its latest figures show that close to $30 million dollars was lost to cybercrime in August alone.

If you think the risk for smaller businesses is relatively low, think again. According to ASIAL, more than 40% of all cyber attacks are aimed at smaller businesses. Why? Because cyber-criminals view small to medium enterprises (SMEs) as more favourable targets, because often they do not think about putting in place key security measures to protect their business. The average cost of a cyber attack on an SME is now close to $300,000, which is why 60% of SMEs do not survive a cyber attack or data breach. So best to get your house in order!

You Need More Than a Computer Program

A study by industry leader MYOB found that 87% of small and medium-sized businesses in Australia believe they are safe from cyber attacks by simply using antivirus software.

But while this is important, there are several measures that SMEs can take to protect themselves online, including: 

  • updating all software with the latest security upgrades and patches; 
  • installing and updating firewalls on home services; and 
  • using technology to enable password protection, such as 2-Factor Authentication (2FA), where a unique pin code or approval request is sent to your phone when you try accessing a program on your computer. 

Train Yourself and Your Staff to be Familiar With the Most Common Forms of Cybercrime

Training yourself and your staff is essential in the fight against cybercrime. Once everyone knows what to look out for and what to do (or rather what not to do), your business can start to adopt a ‘zero trust mindset’ in day-to-day business activities.

How to Spot the Most Common Cybercrimes?

1. Suspicious Emails 

Using fake email and website links is still the number one trick in the book, and it preys on the human tendency to trust when it appears nothing out of the ordinary is happening. It is therefore important to: 

  • verify the sender and the email address; 
  • ensure the spelling is correct; and 
  • exercise caution before clicking on embedded links. 

Is the website legitimate?
A criminal can use a familiar or trustworthy looking email address, so the receiver is led to believe it is from a trusted source. It often contains a common request such as ‘click here to view the changes to your account’. An example of this is

Key rules of thumb to go by are to:

  • check the actual email address of the sender, do not rely just on the sender’s name;
  • scrutinise attachments before opening them;
  • treat messages as suspicious if there is a stated or implied urgency and or a call to action to click on a link; and
  • refuse remote computer access to unidentified sources.

2. Hacking of Passwords 

Are you still using common passwords like Password1 or a combination of first name + birthdate? Please update all of them as soon as possible. Passwords should be taken seriously with at least eight characters and a combination of: 

  • numbers; 
  • symbols; and
  • lowercase letters. 

Beware that criminals have programs that can fire every dictionary word at a computer to crack it in less time than it takes for you to have a cup of coffee.

Check Your Insurance Policy and Have a Plan in Case a Safety Breach Occurs

You should check if your insurance policy covers cybercrime. Importantly, should a safety breach occur, it is essential to have a plan in place. Both the Australian Cyber Security Centre and the ACCC provide best practice information for small businesses. For more information, go to the Australian Cyber Security Centre website or the Australian Government Business website.

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