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What is Australia’s new $23.4m small business Cyber Wardens program?

While it didn’t rate a mention in Treasurer Jim Chalmers’ budget speech on Tuesday night (9 May), the actual budget papers included a $23.4 million investment aimed at boosting the cyber resiliency of small businesses.

user icon David Hollingworth
Wed, 10 May 2023
What is Australia’s new $23.4m small business Cyber Wardens program?
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The Cyber Wardens program — inspired by similar wardens for fire and emergency response that many businesses already have — aims to train up to 60,000 such wardens in small businesses within the next three years.

The program is non-technical in nature, will be free, and above all, easy for businesses to use. With the training, cyber wardens will be able to help their businesses both prevent and mitigate cyber attacks. The training can be completed online, and the program will be administered by the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia.

Telstra, CommBank, and the Australian Cyber Security Centre are also supporting the initiative.

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Matthew Addison, the chair of the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia, believes the Cyber Wardens program can help small businesses take a leading role in combating cyber crime.

“For small businesses to thrive in an online ecosystem vulnerable to cyber threats, increasing employees’ cyber literacy and motivations to act in a cyber-safe manner is essential,” Addison said in an announcement. “This critical investment from the Albanese government will help give small businesses the skills they need to meet the cyber burden.”

Anne Da Cunha, Telstra small and medium business executive, believes the program’s simple approach to the subject will help businesses skill up.

“Managing small business risks online shouldn’t be like the dark arts. We believe the solution lies not just in protecting devices and your internet connection but also in the cyber safety culture you create,” Da Cunha said.

“Telstra is a proud foundational partner of this program and welcomes the government’s commitment to supporting small businesses.”

Luke Power, managing director at security company Trellix, believes the program is a positive step forward for Australia’s future cyber readiness.

“As the very backbone of Australia’s economy, accounting for 97 per cent of businesses in the country today, it’s encouraging to see the Cyber Wardens program prioritised in the budget, addressing a key challenge of the sector, being a lack of resources,” Power told Cyber Security Connect via email.

“Small businesses are particularly vulnerable to ransomware attacks, CEO impersonation schemes, and business email compromise, and need practices in place to not only secure their operations but also the data they hold. From here, what’s important is cyber security preparedness and disbanding the misconception that Australian small businesses are a weak link,” Power said.

“By empowering small businesses with the right tools, they can fulfil their responsibility to protect their everyday Australian customers.”

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth has been writing about technology for over 20 years, and has worked for a range of print and online titles in his career. He is enjoying getting to grips with cyber security, especially when it lets him talk about Lego.

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