A study by accounting software firm MYOB has found that 87 percent of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Australia consider their business to be safe from cyber attacks, mainly because they use antivirus software.
According to the MYOB SME Snapshot survey, 10 percent of the SMEs surveyed said they do not consider themselves safe from cyber attack. MYOB said that many of those who feel unprotected lack security planning, while others feel they are simply more exposed due to the online presence they have.
79 percent of respondents consider no one to be safe from cyber attack.
In compiling its report, MYOB surveyed 394 of its customers during August 2017, and found that organisations with 20-plus staff members and over AU$2 million in revenue are more confident in their security posture.
Around half of the SMEs surveyed are planning to improve their business' cybersecurity over the next 12 months, while 40 percent said they are unlikely to. Updating software and educating themselves and staff was most frequently mentioned as the best approach to defence, MYOB said, followed by educating employees and changing passwords.
13 percent said they intend to hire an IT professional to improve the organisation's cybersecurity position, and 31 percent have plans to throw more money into defensive tactics or software.
However, the biggest barrier to improving the cybersecurity of the business is not having sufficient expertise, with 38 percent of those surveyed telling MYOB they are out of their depth.
32 percent said they do not need to improve their organisation's cybersecurity, because they do not have a strong online presence, and 28 percent find the whole issue "too complex", the report details.
When it comes to the cloud, almost three quarters of SMEs -- 72 percent -- believe their information is moderately or completely safe when stored in the cloud, while 11 percent think their information is not safe, and 10 percent consider storing information in the cloud to be "not at all safe".
MYOB noted that SMEs in remote areas are much more likely to consider data to be unsafe in the cloud. 81 respondents reside within a major regional city, and 63 within a rural town or its surrounds.
Speaking at the recent ASIAL Security Conference in Sydney, Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell said that although many SMEs operating in Australia believe their limited online presence protects them from cybercrime, the presence they have in fact makes them a prime target for cyber criminals.
Carnell said a lot of SMEs don't think they have anything warranting a cyber attack, believing criminals instead would target the "big guys".
"They know the big guys have really cool systems, and they know the little guys haven't," she said previously. "Cyber criminals now are attacking small businesses as a result very, very regularly.
"Small business is attacked for a whole range of reasons, one is their systems are pretty low, their knowledge in the area is pretty low, they don't have in-house IT people, most people don't really understand this stuff at all ... and they have a tendency to pay accounts and invoices quickly. When you get a false account, they have a nasty habit of being paid."
According to the ombudsman, the average cost to businesses as a result of an online scam is about AU$10,000, with most of the scams coming in via email or phone.
Previously, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said that millions of SMEs in Australia need the federal government to help them stay safe in the digital world.
"They need [help] in the way that's simple enough for them to incorporate it into their business and that they can afford," Shorten said, addressing Parliament in November. "This means having the resources to design cyberdefences for products, processes, and people."
For the first half of the 2017 financial year, MYOB reported after-tax profit of AU$28.3 million on revenue of AU$204 million. The SME segment was MYOB's most profitable, with the sector accounting for 62 percent of total revenue at AU$126.4 million.