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Expert: Cybersecurity tips for SMEs

Earlier this year, Australia has seen a series of high-profile cyber attacks that shook the business world, resulting in multimillion-dollar financial losses for numerous organisations. 

Medibank revealed it had detected unusual activity on its network after a cybercriminal accessed its systems and stole records of up to 10 million customers. More recently, Latitude Financial confirmed it lost the personal information of over 14 million customers to hackers. To compound the issue, the Australian Cyber Security Centre revealed that cybercrime reports surged by 13% compared to the previous year, surpassing a total of 76,000 incidents.

As Australian businesses increasingly rely on digital infrastructure, the need for robust cybersecurity practices has never been more critical.  The consequences of a cyber attack can be devastating for any business and their customers, and can result in significant financial losses, reputational damage, and the loss of highly sensitive data. 

Here are three critical cybersecurity challenges that every business leader should be aware of, as well as some practical measures that they can adopt to detect and address risks proactively.

Rising Sophistication of Cyber Attacks

Australian organisations face a variety of cybersecurity threats, and some of the most common types include phishing, malware, ransomware, and denial-of-service (DoS) attacks. But cyber threats have grown in sophistication over the years, with fraudulent entities employing new techniques and emerging tech to carry out their ploy.

For example, cyber criminals have discovered the power of generative AI, the technology behind the likes of ChatGPT, to impersonate real people or create convincing phishing messages to trick victims into giving out their personal information or clicking on malicious links.

As cybercriminals are continuously advancing their schemes, it is imperative for business leaders to stay informed about protecting their organisation from evolving cyber threats and learn how to develop a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy that includes risk assessment, an incident response plan, and a security awareness program. Business leaders must also invest in advanced cybersecurity solutions, such as cyber intrusion detection systems, endpoint protection, and threat intelligence services. Additionally, fostering a proactive cybersecurity mindset within the organisation can help identify and mitigate potential attacks promptly. This involves conducting regular security audits, establishing a security budget, and partnering with trusted security providers.

Insider Threats and Human Error

While external threats often grab the headlines, insider threats and human error remain significant challenges for Australian businesses. Business leaders need to recognise that their employees, either intentionally or unintentionally, can compromise the organisation’s cybersecurity.

Implementing stringent access controls, conducting regular employee training on cybersecurity best practices, and establishing clear policies and protocols can minimise the risk of insider threats. Furthermore, creating a culture that encourages open communication and reporting of potential security incidents helps address vulnerabilities before they escalate. For example, implementing a clear reporting process and ensuring employees know to whom or on which platform they should report issues can empower an organisation to raise security concerns, giving an assurance that the reports are investigated and addressed.

It’s also worth investing in licensed software. This not only reduces the risks of cybersecurity threats but also ensures compliance with Australian law. Business leaders should manage software procurement in a centralised manner, conduct due diligence on software vendors to ensure they are reputable and compliant, and maintain legitimate software with updates.  Moreover, business leaders need to audit their IT teams to ensure they use investments in software for the best possible impact. Too many IT departments in Australia pay for the latest software upgrades, but fail to deploy the newer, more secure software. The result is wasted investment and bigger risk.

Increasing Regulatory and Compliance Requirements

Australian businesses face a growing number of regulatory and compliance requirements concerning data protection and privacy. Business leaders need to stay abreast of these regulations, such as the Notifiable Data Breaches scheme and the Privacy Act, to avoid costly penalties and reputational damage.

Implementing comprehensive data protection measures, conducting regular security audits, and developing incident response plans are essential steps for compliance. More importantly, collaborating with legal and cybersecurity experts can provide guidance on navigating the regulatory landscape effectively.

Australian business leaders cannot afford to overlook the pressing cybersecurity challenges that their organisations face in today’s digital landscape. By understanding and addressing the rising sophistication of cyber attacks, mitigating insider threats and human error, and ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements, CEOs can bolster their company’s cybersecurity defences. Cybersecurity is not just an IT issue, but a broader issue that requires attention from all levels of an organisation as well as the wider business community.

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Tarun Sawney

Tarun Sawney

Tarun Sawney has been driving all compliance and enforcement activities in Asia-Pacific (APAC) for BSA since 2001. He has developed a unique expertise in this field and built lasting working relationships with various enforcement and regulatory bodies in APAC. In close consultation with BSA members, he has developed customized compliance solutions on a country-by-country basis across APAC. He has negotiated over five hundred successful settlements with end-user companies that have infringed the use of BSA members’ software, and he has helped drive considerable value to the members.

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