This article was originally published by Fairfax Media.

Australia is one of the most common cyber attacked communities in the world. But how can businesses protect themselves?

With more businesses than ever being “born in the cloud”, our reliance on digital systems and data has made growth and expansion easier. But with increased benefits comes increased risk of cyberattack.

Multiple data sources show Australia is in the top ten countries globally for the number of ransomware attacks. This is a statistic out of all proportion compared to our population, according to Mark Gorrie, Director, Norton Business Unit.

“Unfortunately, we’re a more affluent nation here, so a lot more people pay because they typically can’t afford to lose their important data,” he said.

“That could be anything from photos and videos to customer details, financial files or data for a business’s accounting system.”

And as organisations grow, the cyber threat naturally increases as more staff are brought onboard, with more devices and more endpoints across more expansive geographic locations.

Veneziano Coffee Roasters

Why growth means cyber caution

Veneziano Coffee Roasters, which was bought by the internationally listed Minor Food Group in 2014, grew from a company importing a few pallets of coffee beans for a handful of wholesale customers, to one roasting more than 45 tonnes of their own beans each week.

In the past 15 years, turnover for the specialty coffee roasters has grown to nearly $50 million annually. It now has roasting operations in Melbourne and Brisbane. Managing director Craig Dickson attributes some of its growth success to having established their own dedicated distribution channels across Australia.

As with many retail driven businesses, growth means establishing satellite offices and having sales people working around the country. It’s an expansion phase that Gorrie says provides a good opportunity for organisations to bed down their attitude and capabilities around cyber security.

As businesses grow, he says, people can incorrectly assume they need to resort to more sophisticated and complex security systems. “It’s not so much sophistication in a lot of cases, it’s just the basics. We see a lot of small businesses who don’t do the basic technology infrastructure very well and don’t understand the weaknesses in their businesses.”

That opens organisations up to attacks on their vulnerabilities, which can include malware and ransomware, which have proven increasingly profitable undertakings for organised crime groups.

Source: Symantec

How to protect your business from a cyberattack

Gorrie suggests five tips for small business to help attack-proof their systems:

1. Know your business and understand its vulnerabilities.

Ask questions such as who is bringing personal devices to the workplace; are they allowed to access company data through those devices; who’s involved in payment flows to make payments out of the business; what devices are being used; and is there up-to-date protection on them?

2. Implement awareness training for staff.

“Staff can be your best line of defence or the weakest link in your business,” Gorrie says. Data captured in the Symantec survey revealed that the top threat identified by small business was email phishing scams, with staff unwittingly clicking on links in emails that trigger malware infections. “Ransomware is one of those we’ve seen a lot of lately,” he says. “Basic awareness training about not opening links from unknown sources can make a huge difference in business.”

3. Use comprehensive backup and security on your devices.

“We encourage people to protect yourself, back up your data, and if you’re still hit, it’s best not to pay and rather recover your data from the backup.”

4. Update your devices.

“A lot of the attacks exploit vulnerability in operating systems, so most OS updates have security updates included which are fixing vulnerabilities.” If you and your staff are not updating, you’re leaving the business exposed.

5. Don’t use a single password for multiple accounts.

It might be tempting, Gorrie says, but if one gets compromised, it’s extremely easy to detect what other services a user has, and exploit vulnerabilities there.

ReadyApps with Vodafone for Business

When should businesses invest in tools?

Stuart Kelly, Executive GM of Enterprise Business at Vodafone Hutchison Australia, advises that the initial growth period is an important time to bed down their tools. “Small business owners are faced with complex challenges, particularly in the early years of business,” he says. “That’s why we focus on personalisation and productivity – it is so important to us that we support our customers to get their job done. Personalised service and ReadyApps like Norton Security equip business owners with the sophisticated tools to stay secure, be productive and ultimately save them time and money.”

Given that so many of the business services available these days are cloud based solutions, security is a simple proposition if it has been established properly from the outset.

“With a lot of businesses these days, if they’re relatively new we refer to them as being ‘born in the cloud’,” Gorrie says. “As a business grows, rather than expanding or changing the particular security program or services themselves, they can just add more users. Whether you’ve got five, ten or 15 employees, you just add extra users.”

Gorrie says traditionally if offices had servers in each location, any traffic between them had to be encrypted, but the shift to cloud, driven by services such as Microsoft 365, are changing that. “Now, whether it’s a PC, a Mac, a phone or a tablet these all communicate with the cloud services and we simply protect the endpoints.”

For software tailored to your needs, talk to Vodafone today. Our technology solutions, including our range of ReadyApps, are designed to help you save time by simplifying processes across a number of areas in your business. Whether it’s email management, file storage or security, our range of new apps provides more choice and personalisation. Call us on 1300 111 111 and we can recommend the right ReadyApp to suit your business.

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Fairfax Media

Fairfax Media

Red Wire partner Fairfax Media is a leading multi-platform media company that attracts engaged audiences right across Australia and New Zealand. It's a go-to source for news and current events.