Global online protection giant, McAfee Corp, has revealed the results of its Global Small Business Study. Conducted in association with Dell Technologies, the study investigated the cybersecurity views and practices of small business owners and IT decision-makers across six international locations, including Australia.
The research highlights that cybersecurity is a substantial concern for 71% of Australian small businesses, who consider it among their most significant risks. This apprehension is warranted, given that the rate of cyber attacks is escalating. Almost half (48%) of the small businesses surveyed have already been targeted, with 14% victimised more than once. The past two years saw 54% of these attacks occur, underscoring the rising threat posed by cyber crime.
Small businesses can suffer disastrous consequences from a single attack, with the study exposing the severe impact on the bottom line: around 64% of business owners who fell foul of a cyber attack lost over $10,000 dealing with its repercussions.
Additionally, over half (54%) reported that such attacks had a psychological or physical impact on them or their staff. In 68% of cyber attack cases, companies lost over a week's worth of crucial time handling IT issues ensuing from the attack.
The consequences of these attacks stretch beyond the company's finances to customer trust and operational efficiency, resulting in losses including customer data (42%), passwords (38%) and other files (29%). A majority (56%) of these attacks were triggered by an individual mistakenly clicking on a phishing link or opening a harmful attachment.
The increasingly realistic and frequent malicious messages, powered by artificial intelligence (AI), put small business owners at a significant disadvantage. AI, the “scammer's favourite tool", allows cyber criminals to enhance the scope, speed and sophistication of phishing and text message scams.
However, AI can also be harnessed by small business owners to counter AI-related threats and anxieties, for instance, McAfee’s AI-driven McAfee Scam Protection software proactively blocks dangerous links appearing in text messages, social media or web browsers.
The study further revealed that although most small business owners and IT decision-makers appreciate the need to invest in cybersecurity planning and mitigation, only 35% expressed high confidence in their ability to prevent cyber attacks. Surprisingly, most small businesses (57%) manage their cybersecurity without external help, with over a third (36%) spending over seven hours a week addressing general IT issues.
Additional findings show that 26% of business owners worry daily about cyber attacks, and 51% expressed confidence in their employees' ability to secure company devices and IP. A total of 68% of small businesses believe their cybersecurity risks are increasing. Around 21% of those who experienced cyber attacks reported that outdated or unpatched software that was breached caused the attacks.
In response to this complex threat landscape, McAfee, in collaboration with Dell Technologies, launched McAfee Business Protection last year. This comprehensive security solution provides award-winning security, identity monitoring on the dark web, VPN, web protection for safe browsing, and more.
Tyler McGee, Head of Sales APAC, said, "We understand the vulnerabilities and risks small business owners face, and we’re committed to providing them industry-leading online protection solutions.”
Additionally, the companies have also prepared a free small business resource guide to help educate small businesses about the cyber threat landscape.