Australia needs an “iron dome” to protect SMEs from cyber threats

Microsoft_cybersecurity ransomware iron dome

Source: Unsplash/Clint Patterson

Viruses, whether digital or biological, come in all shapes and sizes. But the best defense from them stems from a unified and persistent response.

Take the Australian COVID-19 response. Federally, through the JobKeeper program, $90 billion was pledged to up to 3.5 million Australians who received $1500 per fortnight at its peak. However, state governments also filled in the breach as well. In February, Tasmania pledged $160 million in COVID-19 support to its struggling businesses, with grants ranging from $1000-10,000.

In December, South Australia gave its businesses $40 million, with up to $20-22,000 pledged for businesses in the hard-hit sectors of tourism, gym/fitness and hospitality. Even the territories received relief, with payroll tax waivers for all businesses that experienced a 40% reduction in turnover, as well as one-off grants of $3000 for employing business and a 30% reduction on their regulated utility bills. This ongoing support, from both the federal and state governments, made the difference during such unpredictable times.

As Australia continues to effectively manage COVID-19, it should also acknowledge another persistent issue that threatens the wellbeing of our small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the backbone of our economy. Of our businesses, 96% have fewer than 200 employees.

These enterprises are largely unprepared and under-resourced for today’s sophisticated cyber threat, state actors and well-organised criminal gangs. This issue comes in the form of crippling ransomware, credential stealers, targeted system hacks and cyber espionage. In 2017, Petya, a ransomware attack, took out Ukraine’s power grid, airport, as well as many of its banks.

In fact, ever since Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, Ukraine has continually faced down cyberthreats, including two blackouts that hit its capital Kyiv within months of each other in 2015-16.

Necessity has shown Ukraine and others that to protect its citizenry and its economy, they need the cyber equivalent of the Iron Dome, the Israeli…