Small business owners should not assume their young social media-savvy family members or employees have the know-how to defend their businesses from a cyber attack.

Australia’s first generation of digital natives are among the least aware of common cyber security threats such as identity theft and ransomware, according to a new survey of more than 2000 small business owners and employees by the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia’s Cyber Wardens program.

The survey findings signal a warning for small business owners who regularly rely on younger family members or employees to manage their technology and business social media. 

Four in five Australian small business owners and employees are not confident in their ability to prepare for, fight and recover from a cyber threat.

The survey, which examined generational approaches to cyber security, found two-thirds (67 per cent) of Australian small business owners believe tech-savviness equates to cyber safety skills.

While Gen Z employees — those born after 1997 — may have grown up with TikTok and Minecraft, the research suggests our first generation of digital natives are among the least cyber safe, lacking the awareness and key competencies of cyber security compared to their older colleagues.

The safest pair of hands in the small business community appear to be GenXers and upper Millennials in their 30s, who are the most likely to take cyber security seriously.

Despite the lower awareness of incoming threats compared to their older counterparts, Gen Z rate their skills to prepare for, fight and respond to cyber threats as on par to all other generations, suggesting inflated levels of confidence. 

In good news, Gen Z is the generation most keen to learn more and help build a culture of cyber safety, with one in two Gen Z employees (55 per cent) interested in participating in the Cyber Wardens program.

The Cyber Wardens program, developed in partnership with the Commonwealth Bank (CBA) and Telstra will be rolled out this year to help safeguard Australia’s 2.3 million small businesses and lock the digital front doors of businesses across the country.

“A good first step is taking stock of who is responsible for your business’ cyber protection,” COSBOA Chairman Matthew Addison said.

“Don’t just assume your kids or younger employees are the safest pair of hands when it comes to online activity.”

CBA's Chief Information Security Officer, Keith Howard, said the Cyber Wardens program will give small business owners and their employees simple information and tools to stay safe online.

“With a focus on practical behavioural change rather than technical jargon, Cyber Wardens will arm small business employees and owners with simple steps to protect their personal and professional lives online. It’s great to be working closely with COSBOA and Telstra to help create a frontline defence against cyber threats with Australia’s 5 million-strong small business workforce, “ Mr Howard said.

Telstra Small and Medium Business Executive Anne Da Cunha said the findings demonstrate the importance of a co-operative approach to cyber security across generations, industries and businesses both big and small.

“Australian small business owners have done it tough the past few years, emerging from COVID, navigating global supply chain issues and for some the impacts of natural disasters, the last thing they need is a cyber attack or scam to contend with,” Ms Da Cunha said

The Cyber Wardens pilot program will launch in early 2023. To be one of the first people to complete this training and better equip your small business against cyber risks, visit: 

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