In response to the mounting cyber threats faced by small and medium businesses, the National Retail Association welcomes the Australian Cyber Security Strategy introduced by the Albanese Government. Under the leadership of Minister for Cyber Security, Clare O’Neil, this comprehensive strategy, offers support for businesses vulnerable to cyber incidents, and is a crucial step in fortifying our national cybersecurity defences. 

What is cyber security and why is it important? 

Cyber Security is the practice of protecting systems, networks, and programs from digital attacks. The attacks are commonly targeted at accessing, changing or destroying sensitive information. Cybercrime is on the rise in 2023, with over 25,000 calls to the Cyber Security Hotline, which is an average of 69 calls per day resulting in 15% increase from the previous financial year. Each cybercrime costs small business $40,000 on average and the number of attacks leapt 13% last year to the equivalent of one every seven minutes. 

How is the government supporting SMEs and what do we think about it? 

Acknowledging the unique challenges faced by small and medium businesses, which are often more vulnerable to the financial and reputational impacts of cyber incidents, the government is introducing two key initiatives. National Retail’s Director of Policy, David Stout, underscores the significance of these initiatives from the perspective of small businesses.

The Albanese Government commits $7.2 million to establish a voluntary cyber health-check program. This program allows businesses to conduct a free, tailored self-assessment of their cybersecurity maturity. Stout emphasises, “It’s a vital step in empowering small businesses to gauge and strengthen their cybersecurity measures, providing them with the tools needed to navigate the evolving threat landscape.”

Small and medium businesses with higher risk exposure will also have the opportunity to undergo a sophisticated, third-party assessment, enhancing security across national supply chains. Stout notes, “This added layer of support is crucial, especially for businesses deeply integrated into national supply chains. It aligns with our commitment to creating a robust cybersecurity environment for small businesses.”

Additionally, the government is investing $11 million in the Small Business Cyber Resilience Service, providing one-on-one assistance to help small businesses navigate their cyber challenges. Stout comments, “The Small Business Cyber Resilience Service offers personalised assistance, guiding businesses through the necessary steps to recover from a cyber-attack. It recognises the immediate support required by small businesses during such incidents.”

Highlighting the urgent need for a united front against cyber threats, Stout remarks, “The holistic approach to cybersecurity is paramount. By leaving small businesses exposed, we compromise the entire system. The government’s initiative is integral to bolstering the cyber hygiene and support for small and medium businesses, contributing significantly to a more secure and resilient nation.”

In acknowledgment of the multifaceted challenges faced by small businesses, Stout concludes, “Amidst rising living costs, interest rates, and crime levels, small businesses find themselves navigating an exceptionally challenging period. The National Retail Association commends the government for its foresight in addressing these issues and providing essential support to small and medium retail businesses grappling with the pervasive threat of cybercrime. This initiative underscores the government’s commitment to strengthening the resilience of our nation’s retail sector in the face of evolving digital threats.”

National Retail’s Position 

The National Retail Association encourages all retailers to actively engage with these programs, leveraging the available resources to fortify their defences. Recognising the vital role of small businesses in the Australian economy, National Retail emphasizes the significance of these initiatives in ensuring national security and economic prosperity for Australia’s 2.5 million small businesses.