As our world becomes increasingly connected, it’s becoming readily apparent that the new digital age is rapidly becoming a battleground between data custodians and the dark web for custodianship of our data. From driver's licenses to credit card details, it’s becoming increasingly important for organisations both large and small to invest in digital tools and strategies to protect their organisations from becoming the next victim of a cyber attack.
However, investing in the right technology can often be a challenging exercise for modern employers. In particular, Australian small businesses typically face knowledge issues when understanding what the best way is to protect their businesses - made even more difficult when the cost of recruiting experienced IT professionals is now at an all-time high.
Fortunately, the Australian Government has taken steps to address this critical skills shortage, recently announcing an investment of $23.4 million into the CyberWardens Program for Small Business Resilience. For those who are not necessarily tech-savvy, understanding what a Cyber Warden is and how they can help small businesses can be tricky - so let's explore what they do, and how they’ll look to make a difference in the small business landscape.
What Are Cyber Wardens?
Understanding what a Cyber Warden is can be a little bit difficult to understand without context on other wardens and officer functions that may be available in workplaces. For example, when operating in a building, many businesses are legally required to have some roles present in the workplace - notable, a fire warden, just in case there’s an emergency that requires staff to evacuate a building, as well as a first aid officer, who may be there to provide medical treatment if a team member experiences medical distress on site.
A Cyber Warden is the digital equivalent of a fire warden or first aid officer - specifically trained in providing insights and advice for digital-related incidents, such as spam messages, scams, or phishing attacks. While a Cyber Warden won’t work at a business on an ongoing basis, they’ll act more as a helpful figure, providing advice on the strategies that small businesses should employ to protect themselves from dangerous cyber activity.
What Can We Learn From Cyber Wardens?
There are four key ways that a Cyber Warden will be able to help support small businesses, each providing a valuable layer of insulation against the risks of cyber attacks. In particular, the Cyber Warden program looks to provide support in the following areas:
- Prevent the occurrence of simple cyber attacks by providing education on data protection, online safety, and identity verification.
- Prepare for cyber attacks by providing recommendations on strategies such as password management, data retention, and governance.
- Fight against potential cyber incidents by providing news and information on the strategies that bad actors are currently using against other small businesses.
- Help recover from cyber attacks, by providing information on support services such as IDCARE.
It’s hoped that by supporting Cyber Wardens, small businesses will be able to use these insights to help protect themselves from the many millions in losses that occur as a result of small business scams each year. Cyber Wardens looks set to become a valued support mechanism within today’s highly connected industries.
Investing in Cyber Resilience
Fundamentally, the $23.4 million investment into the program is expected to help fund the growth and training of some 60,000 Cyber Wardens nationwide over the next three years. This may seem like a relatively large investment, however, with the occurrence of major cyber events such as the recent Optus and Medibank hacks, this investment is relatively small when you consider the broad and wide-ranging impact that the loss of personal information can have on customers and clients.
It’s estimated that some 43% of all Australian cybercrime is directed towards small businesses - even if only 1% of Cyber Wardens manage to prevent an attack, they’ll potentially have the capacity to prevent tens of millions of dollars worth of damage to Australian small businesses.
Investing in cyber resilience and education remains one of the most powerful tools in a digital defender’s arsenal. Being able to empower cyber-literate employees on the best strategies that they can use to prevent an attack and protect themselves online can go a long way to making a difference in today’s digital landscape.