In a groundbreaking collaboration to shield small enterprises from cybercrime, Australia's maiden group of regional Cyber Wardens will graduate at a special event in Wagga Wagga today.

A group of small businesses will assemble to get acquainted with the revolutionary Cyber Wardens initiative, a training program aimed at educating ordinary employees on how to thwart cyber criminals.

This state-of-the-art initiative equips regular workers with the tools they need to secure their small enterprises against sophisticated cyber threats.

The Cyber Wardens venture was born out of a collaboration between Telstra, the Commonwealth Bank and leading small business advocacy body, the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA). Recognising the critical importance of cyber safety in the small business sector, this partnership created Australia's first-ever cyber safety workplace certification program.

Currently cyber threats and scams targeting small businesses cost the Australian economy an estimated $29 billion a year.

Research conducted on behalf of Telstra, the CommBank and COSBOA earlier this year revealed small businesses in regional areas were less concerned about the risk of a cyber attack than those in metro areas, increasing their risk profile. Their confidence in dealing with a cyber attack was also lower.

Crafted by small businesses, for small businesses, the Cyber Wardens program aims to empower owners and their workforces with easy-to-use, complimentary tools available via an interactive eLearning platform.

Participants at the Wagga Wagga event will become Australia's pioneer regional Cyber Wardens graduates. They will complete the training at the event, which includes the skills to carry out regular cyber security inspections and risk audits, as well as keeping passwords and data safe, and reporting any suspicious messages and threats.

After graduating, the attendees will have a chance to network and share experiences.

Having a trained cyber warden who can identify and prevent a single attack could save a small business $50,000.

Busy employees putting off a software update, sharing simple passwords across a business or failing to identify a scam message masquerading as legitimate business are scenarios that account for 19 out of 20 cyber attacks.

The free program will create up to 60,000 Cyber Wardens in small businesses within three years, building small business cyber resilience from the ground up.

Commonwealth Bank, General Manager Small Business Banking NSW ACT, Shaun Stevens said: “Scammers and hackers are using increasingly sophisticated attacks to target small and medium sized businesses. The Cyber Wardens training program is specifically designed to help SMEs respond to the risks and support them to build an effective culture of cyber security.

“Empowering small businesses to identify and manage cyber threats is essential. Our first graduates to the regional Cyber Wardens program will be able to take their knowledge and skills out to others, helping the entire local Wagga Wagga business community to lock their doors to cyber threats.”

COSBOA CEO, Luke Achterstraat said: “The Cyber Wardens program was making cyber security simple and accessible for Australian small businesses.

“We know regional small businesses are not as prepared for cyber threats, which leaves them more vulnerable to attacks,” Mr Achterstraat said. “Educating your team about cyber threats is the best way to protect your small business.

“Once trained in online safety, Cyber Wardens will take their skills with them when they transfer to a new job, expanding the program throughout the small business workforce.”

Telstra, Small Business Executive, Anne De Cuhna said: “The Cyber Wardens program makes managing small business cybersecurity simple by building a culture of defence alongside practical technical skills.

“It’s not just big businesses in big cities that need to worry about cybersecurity - it’s everyone, including small family businesses in regional areas. Telstra is proud to partner with CommBank and COSBOA on this important cybersecurity initiative and we’re thrilled to graduate our first regional cohort.”

Small business owners can join the waitlist to get free access to the Cyber Wardens program over the coming weeks.

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