17 October 2023

Opinion piece: Small business critical to cyber security strategy


Published in The Daily Telegraph

Recent high profile cyber attacks have revealed the enormous amount of data held by Australia’s largest businesses.

Along with the significant cost to consumers who have had their data compromised, we have also seen the serious damage that is done to businesses that have faced attacks.

While these attacks make headlines, it’s not just big business that faces the prospect of being damaged by a cyber security attack.

Australia’s small businesses face the very same pressures.

In fact, the average cost per cybercrime attack is around $39,000 per small business, causing significant financial and reputational damage.

Small businesses have rapidly digitalised in the past few years, bringing new opportunities but also increasing their vulnerability to cyber attacks.

Australia’s small businesses are already facing cost pressures, so a cybercrime attack would be a huge blow.

This is why the Albanese government is making sure small businesses are at the centre of our efforts to protect Australia from growing cyber threats.

My colleague Clare O’Neil, the Cyber Security Minister, is developing a new strategy to directly address these challenges.

This strategy will set out how all areas of government can work together to protect Australians from cyber threats, with the aim of making Australia a world‑leading cyber secure nation by 2030.

Feedback from small businesses is helping to inform the development of this new strategy and they will be a critical part of its implementation.

Another critical element of protecting small businesses is making sure Australia has strong privacy laws.

These laws are essential to Australians’ trust and confidence in the digital economy and digital services provided by governments and businesses.

That’s why the Attorney‑General, Mark Dreyfus, has announced our government’s response to the Privacy Act Review, which will help ensure that small businesses have greater resilience towards data breaches and are keeping data and personal information safe.

Many small businesses don’t have a good sense of what data they hold or the risks involved, but we know that small businesses want to do the right thing when it comes to privacy and data protection.

That’s why we will work with the small business sector every step of the way as we transition to the new settings.

These changes will only be made after extensive consultations with small business and a transition period to ensure small businesses have reasonable time to prepare.

By helping small businesses to improve their data security, we are ensuring they are less attractive targets for cyber criminals and helping to protect small businesses and the jobs that they provide in the community.

This is a good thing for small businesses and for Australians who love to support them.

This work forms part of the Albanese government’s broader efforts to upskill small businesses in cyber security and adapt to the digital economy.

And we have already committed new investments to help small businesses.

This includes $23.4 million to help small businesses build their resilience to cyber security attacks through a new Cyber Wardens program.

This new funding will help expand the successful program being run by the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia.

The Albanese government has also delivered $18.6 million to help support small businesses adapt and build resilience through digital technology through the latest round of Digital Solutions.

We know small businesses are at the heart of local communities across the country, so the government will continue to put them at the centre of our efforts to tackle cyber security threats.