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The Albanese government has announced moves to reinforce the cyber security of small and medium businesses (SMBs) as part of the 2023–2030 Australian Cyber Security Strategy that is expected to be revealed this week.
Announced in a joint media release by Minister for Home Affairs and Cyber Security Clare O’Neil and Minister for Housing, Homelessness and Small Businesses Julie Collins, the government will invest $41.6 million to aid SMBs in defending against cyber attacks and help them recover from breaches faster.
“Small businesses are the backbone of the Australian economy and the foundation for Australia’s digital economy, making up 97 per cent of all Australian businesses,” said Minister Collins.
“That’s why the Albanese government will continue to put them at the centre of our efforts to tackle cyber security threats and help uplift their cyber capabilities to create a stronger Australia.”
The new investment will see $7.2 million put towards the establishment of a “voluntary cyber health-check program”, which will grant organisations the ability to undertake a tailored self-assessment of their cyber security maturity for free.
Not only will this allow organisations to evaluate how well their cyber practices and defences are keeping them safe, but it will also be accompanied by educational material and tools to allow them to improve their cyber safe skills.
For those SMBs that have a higher risk exposure will have access to “a more sophisticated, third-party assessment”, according to the release.
In addition, the Albanese government will invest $11 million in the Small Business Cyber Resilience Service, an initiative that aims to assist SMBs better defend themselves from threat actors, mitigate damage and recover faster.
Council of Small Business Organisations Australia chief Luke Achterstraat marked the move as a massive boost for small businesses in a time where cyber security concerns are at an unprecedented high.
“Small business owners and employees are time-poor and often inadequately prepared for cyber threats,” wrote Achterstraat.
“These programs open the door for small businesses to have the cyber conversation, receive a diagnosis and be referred to appropriate courses of action.”
The new measures are set to make up part of the new 2023–2030 Australian Cyber Security Strategy, which is expected to be announced this week.
“We understand the challenges that small businesses face in the complex world of cyber security, but they are not on their own,” said Minister O’Neil.
“The Australian government’s cyber security strategy will make sure the support is available to help them understand and improve their own cyber security.
“The strategy is underpinned by six cyber shields, with strong businesses and citizens at the core of these shields.
"Uplifting the cyber security of our small businesses is integral to a cyber secure and resilient nation, and this dedicated support will make a huge difference in their preparedness and resilience.”
In addition to the measures discussed above, Home Affairs has already announced the appointment of a new Cyber Incident Review Board, which will investigate major incidents to gain a better understanding of how to defend the nation from threat actors and will limit the amount of information then moved on to other entities, in the hope of encouraging organisations to come forward.
These investigations will be classed as “no-fault”, meaning they aren’t designed to call out or prosecute a breached organisation but purely to collect information and better Australia’s cyber defences.
In addition to the new board, the government has answered calls for a “legal safe harbour” for breached organisations, with Minister O’Neil telling The Weekend Australian that such a harbour will become legal for “limited use” in the future.
Minister O’Neil hopes that the new Cyber Security Strategy will push Australia to become the most cyber secure nation in the world by 2030.
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