SME conditions improve but smallest firms still negative
While the threat posed to small business by hackers and cyber criminals is growing, there are many opportunities to lower the risk to your business, says NAB Executive Small Business Ana Marinkovic.
Unfortunate though it may be, the threat to businesses posed by hackers and cyber criminals is undeniable. And it’s not only big corporations that are at risk.
Although they may not make the headlines, small businesses are just as vulnerable. While cyber criminals may not seek to destroy their reputations or impact their operations, they are targeting their funds and data.
The statistics speak for themselves – just over 10% Australian businesses have been victims of a cyber attack, scam or data breach in the past 12 months alone.
The results can be devastating for small business owners who have invested their labour, and often their savings, into building a successful enterprise. Last year, small businesses lost an average of $19,400 from cybercrime, however for many individuals and organisations, the sums have been much larger.
In one recent instance, we supported a small business owner who’d been persuaded to invest in a managed fund that claimed to be run by a major bank. High-quality brochures, contracts and statements were provided and, over a six-month period, the business owner parted with almost $3 million. The deception was only uncovered when their investment was due to mature and a call to NAB revealed the fund in question did not exist and the money they’d transferred had long since been sent offshore.
Unfortunately, stories like this are not unusual – NAB has seen a 38 per cent increase in scam reports, year on year.
Today’s highly digital lives only increase the risk. The amount of information available online means cyber criminals can conduct extensive research on an individual or business before making contact. They may spend months crafting sophisticated, convincing ‘back stories’ capable of taking in even the most intelligent and sceptical among us.
That’s why protecting yourself and your small business should be top priority. Knowledge is power and staying up to date with advice from government agencies, local chambers of commerce and your bank will keep you aware of the latest scams and threats.
Rigorous cyber ‘hygiene’ measures – installing software security patches immediately when they’re released, deploying the latest anti-virus software, changing passwords regularly, conducting frequent back-ups and training staff to be ‘cyber threat’ aware – can make your business a tougher target.
Unexpected calls from individuals or organisations requesting personal or business information are best treated with suspicion.
Messages from suppliers requesting you change their payment details should be followed up with a call before any change is actioned – to the company’s publicly listed phone number, not the number provided by the individual who has made contact.
Using separate mobile phones for business and personal use reduces your exposure to malware attacks, as does minimising children’s access to your devices. Young people can be more susceptible than adults and it’s all too easy for them to fall prey to hackers in online environments.
If you are running a more complex operation that’s heavily dependent on technology, it can be worthwhile investing in expert advice. Hiring a cyber consultant who can assess your security posture and recommend appropriate measures to enhance it is money well spent, given what’s potentially at stake. A substantial loss of funds could cripple your cash flow and make it difficult for you to continue trading.
Staying connected with your bank is also vital. Time is of the essence when it comes to recovering lost or stolen funds and it’s vital you call your bank immediately if you suspect your business has been scammed or hacked.
Keeping your contact details up to date via a secure network, such as internet banking, enables us to contact you quickly in the event of an incident. It’s important to remember that NAB does not list our phone number in text messages we send – you’ll find contact details on our website instead. To help crack down on scams and fraud, we’ve also removed links from our text messages. They’ve been replaced with advice directing customers to our web site or the NAB app.
And we’ll never ask you to transfer money to another account to keep it safe, or to provide us with access to your computer or online accounts.
Unfortunately, scams and cyber threats are likely to remain an unwelcome feature of the commercial landscape; stepping up security could prevent your small business becoming a victim. If you’ve yet to do so, there’s never been a better time to get started.
© National Australia Bank Limited. ABN 12 004 044 937 AFSL and Australian Credit Licence 230686.