Recent high-profile cyber attacks in Australia have involved major companies, government utilities, and critical infrastructure. Cybercriminals constantly employ new technologies to help them exploit network and system vulnerabilities, taking advantage of the shortage of cybersecurity professionals and inefficient IT practices. Often these attacks are used to extort payments via ransomware or to gain access to company data and sell it on the dark web.
From July 2021 to June 2022, the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) received more than 76,000 cybercrime reports, a 13% increase from the previous period. Those security breaches —which most commonly include malware, ransomware, phishing, and DoS attacks — also cost businesses 14% more, on average, thanks to their ability to disrupt operations, steal valuable data, damage the brand’s image, and cause companies to incur legal and regulatory penalties for insufficiently protecting user data.
As a result, it is now necessary for business leaders to proactively manage their organizations’ cybersecurity in order to protect them from potential breaches and safeguard sensitive data. Recognizing this urgency, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said at a government-led cyber security roundtable event in early 2023 that “For businesses these days, cyber security is as important and essential as the shop having a lock on the door. We need all Australian businesses to be able to protect themselves and – just as importantly – protect their customers.”
With that in mind, here are five essential steps that you should take to strengthen your company’s cybersecurity defences.
Recognize the Risks
Understanding the potential risks and threats is the first step towards effective cybersecurity management. Business leaders need to be aware of the various types of cyber threats, including phishing attacks, malware, and ransomware. Staying informed about the evolving landscape of cybercrime can help you better anticipate potential vulnerabilities and allocate resources to protect your organization.
Invest in Licensed, Updated Software
Outdated software often contains security vulnerabilities that can be exploited by cybercriminals to gain access to user data — or even hijack the PC and access the wider network. For this reason, using licensed, updated software is crucial for maintaining a secure digital environment. Business leaders should ensure that all software used within their organization is licensed and regularly updated. By investing in legitimate software and ensuring your IT department keeps it up to date, you can minimize the risk of unauthorized access and potential data breaches.
Implement Strong Authentication Practices
Authentication is the key to preventing malicious actors from accessing your critical business systems and data. Australian CEOs should enforce strong authentication practices such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) and strong password policies. MFA adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to provide multiple forms of identification, such as a password and a unique code sent to their mobile device. Additionally, encouraging employees to use complex passwords and regularly change them can significantly enhance your cybersecurity defences.
Foster a Culture of Cybersecurity Awareness
Creating a culture of cybersecurity awareness is essential for the overall security posture of an organization. Less technologically literate employees make easy targets for cyber threats like phishing schemes, so business leaders should prioritize employee education and training programs to ensure that all staff members understand the importance of cybersecurity best practices. That means regularly conducting cybersecurity workshops, providing resources for self-learning, and establishing protocols for reporting potential security incidents. By fostering a culture of cybersecurity awareness, you can empower your workforce to act as the first line of defence against cyber threats.
Regularly Assess and Update Security Measures
Cybersecurity is not a one-time fix; it requires continuous evaluation and improvement. Business leaders must regularly assess their security measures to identify potential vulnerabilities and update them accordingly. This includes conducting comprehensive security audits, penetration testing, and vulnerability assessments. Staying proactive and addressing potential weaknesses promptly will help you stay one step ahead of cybercriminals and effectively protect your organization.
By Tarun Sawney is Senior Director of BSA | The Software Alliance