Computer Crime Research Center


Hefty cyber-crime costs hit Aussies

Date: June 23, 2009

SMALL businesses are leaving themselves vulnerable to computer crime by scrimping on the cost of security.

A survey by the Australian Institute of Criminology found small businesses spent an average of $992 a year on computer security and 16 per cent had no protection at all.

Despite the relaxed approach to security, almost one in seven of the 4000 businesses surveyed by the AIC reported one or more computer security incidents in a year.

Those incidents included network sabotage, phishing attacks and virus infections that led to the loss of data, computer crashes and the corruption of hardware or software.

AIC principal criminologist Russell Smith said businesses needed to lift their computer security or face the consequences.

"Anti-virus software and firewalls are really not enough," Dr Smith said.

"Some of the new viruses come through before the updates are able to deal with it, so it's not a complete protection."

He said even very small businesses saved personal information in "client databases" and also had banking details that needed to be secured.

"All of this information is being collected in one place and is accessible through a laptop or a mobile phone," Dr Smith said.

The survey found the average loss for businesses affected by computer security incidents ranged from $2431 for small workplaces to $49,246 for big business.

The total loss from computer security incidents Australia-wide in 2006-07 was $649 million.

"Australia is pretty much level with other developed countries in terms of computer security but I think that suggests the whole developed world needs to take the computer risk a lot more seriously," Dr Smith said.

Part of the problem was the way computer systems were constructed, he said.

"They're designed to make it easy for people to get going and use computers and phones. Maybe there should be more barriers in place to force people to have more basic knowledge about computers."

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