Small businesses will be able to apply for up to $2,100 in funding to help get their cyber security tested under a new government initiative announced today.
Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said $10 million will be committed to a new grant scheme, designed to address digital security shortcomings among small firms.
Businesses with 19 or fewer employees will be eligible to apply for the grants, with applications open for the next two years or until all the funding is committed.
The grants will cover half the cost of a cyber security health check, which will be run by approved Council of Registered Ethical Security Testers (CREST) service providers.
CREST itself will receive a $2 million grant from the federal government to improve its ability to help small businesses with cyber security issues.
The measures round out commitments made in the government’s 2016 cyber security strategy, and, according to Andrews, will help bolster confidence among businesses and consumers.
“The Liberal-National Government recognises that confidence in the security of data is vital both to businesses and their customers,” Andrews said in a statement.
“Support from CREST ANZ will provide pathways for small businesses to take advantage of the economic opportunities that connected technologies provide.”
To apply for the grant, businesses need to first register for a health check on CREST’s website, undertake the check with a certified provider, pay in full, and then complete an application for reimbursement.
Trusts, publicly funded research organisations and those not registered for GST are ineligible to participate in the grant scheme.
Cyber crime has been a hot-button issue among SMEs this year, amid what many experts say has been a step-up in instances of data breaches and online scams.
In October, SmartCompany spoke to business owner Phoebe Bell, who lost $10,000 to an email phishing scheme.
“I always thought I was smart enough to know when I was going to be scammed,” she said of the ordeal.
Andrew Bycroft, chief executive of the international cyber resilience institute, says small businesses often lack the right processes to prevent cyber attacks and don’t rectify issues until it’s too late.
“They don’t have access to people, they can’t get access to top-notch cyber security professionals,” he tells SmartCompany.
Bycroft says the grant scheme is a welcome move, but $10 million isn’t enough to seriously address the magnitude of digital vulnerabilities across the sector.
“One of the concerns I’ve got is we will throw lots of technology at this problem, but we won’t look at the other aspects like culture, process and people,” he says.
More broadly, it is estimated that cyber crime costs the Australian economy about $1 billion each year, with vulnerable small businesses emerging as an easy target for crooks.
Larger firms around the world haven’t been immune though, and over the weekend international hotel chain Marriott admitted that the personal information and some payment details of 500 million customers had been leaked in a security breach.