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Nearly half of Australian small businesses (45 per cent) don’t see themselves as likely targets for cyber criminals, a perception that could end up costing them dearly, while the other half (50 per cent) regarded cyber security as a high priority, according to new research commissioned by the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA) and Cyber Wardens launched this week.

The research, which surveyed around 2,100 small businesses, found that even those who worry about their online safety aren’t necessarily taking steps to address cyber threats, with 4 in 10 small businesses having little to no confidence in their ability to respond to a cyber threat.

Rebecca Warren speaks on a panel at the Cyber Wardens Research Summit Stop. Check. Reject. CBA EGM Small Business Banking discusses cyber safety alongside Telstra's Chief Information Security Officer Narelle Devine, and COSBOA CEO Luke Achterstraat on a panel at the Cyber Wardens Research Summit

This is despite the fact Australian small businesses face cyber threats every day, according to Commonwealth Bank Executive General Manger Small Business Banking, Rebecca Warren, who said the divide in attitudes towards cyber risks likely highlights the corresponding divide in education levels around online threats.

“Some of the most common scams targeting businesses, such as Business Email Compromise and Remote Access Scams, depend on a business having low levels of cyber security measures in place and low levels of awareness among staff around how these attacks occur,” Ms Warren said.

“Small businesses are generally very time-poor and have fewer resources to invest in sophisticated cyber protection, and this can make them an easier target and the impact can be devastating, not just financially speaking but emotionally as well.”

Encouragingly, an overwhelming majority of small business owners and employees (86%) express a keen interest in a program that is easy to access and simplifies cyber security. Research results will help inform the national delivery of the Cyber Wardens program, which is done in partnership between COSBOA, Commonwealth Bank and Telstra.

Commonwealth Bank has invested $750 million in financial year 2023 to help protect customers from frauds, scams, financial and cybercrime, and launched a number of features like NameCheck, CallerCheck and CustomerCheck as additional layers of protection.

But as Ms Warren highlights, people are the first line of defence when it comes to cyber safety, while processes and technology both play a crucial role in warding off criminals.

“This is why at Commonwealth Bank, we’re working hard to raise awareness among our customers about cyberthreats, scams and fraud. We encourage our customers to stop, check and reject anything that may seem out of the ordinary, and the ability to spot those things is crucial.

“One of the ways we help our customers upskill in this area is through our partnership with COSBOA and the Cyber Wardens program, which is all about upskilling small businesses in cyber safety.”

COSBOA CEO Luke Achterstraat said the new data shows us that small businesses simply cannot fall into the trap of thinking they’re too small to be a target for cyber criminals.

“Investing in cyber security training and tools is essential to help protect your small business, staff and clients. With Cyber Wardens we’ve made that training free and easy for small businesses.”

According to Telstra Chief Information Security Officer Narelle Devine, cyber criminals are notoriously persistent and are constantly adapting their techniques to target all types of businesses and individuals.

“No one is immune from the threat, which is why cyber security must be a team sport and a permanent mindset. Building support with a strong team culture where cyber security is everyone’s responsibility is critical.”

For more on CBA’s scam and cyber security for business, visit CommBank Safe.

Read the Building a culture of cyber safety in Australian small businesses Cyber Wardens research report.

About Cyber Wardens

Cyber Wardens is a national initiative of the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia, supported by the Australian Government and an industry alliance led by Telstra, CommBank and the Australian Cyber Security Centre, to help protect Australia’s 2.3 million small businesses from online threats. For more about cyber security training for small businesses, visit Cyber Wardens.

Go to CBA Newsroom for the latest news and announcements from Commonwealth Bank.