Visit from Federal Minister for Home Affairs, The Hon Karen Andrews MP – Cyber Crime Discussions

Wanneroo Business Association held a roundtable discussion with The Hon Karen Andrews MP, Federal Minister for Home Affairs this week, giving over 20 local businesses and members the opportunity to have their questions answered and their voices heard.

Along side national security and keeping all Australians safe, cyber security was the main topic of discussion.  Minister Andrews started by addressing the need for cyber defence and offence systems to be developed and implemented, in a world where the risk of cyber attacks is on the rise.  Referencing the situation in Ukraine, the Minister pointed out a heightened risk of a cyber attack from Russia, although the Government keep the view that Australia would be collateral damage in an attack on other nations.

The Australian Signals Directorate is our first defence in fighting cyber security and Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg recently handed down the pre-election budget which pledges $9.9 billion for Australia’s offensive and defensive cyber capabilities.  The 10-year package aims to enhance cyber and intelligence capabilities, particularly given the growing threats and attacks experienced in Australia during the pandemic.

The Minister went on to explain that cyber security awareness and minimising the risks cyber attacks lies with us all.  The Federal Government do not see this as an issue for them to tackle alone, all individuals and small businesses need to be educated on how to protect their own data, need to know where to go to report a cyber attack and also be encouraged to alert others.

QuestionCity of Wanneroo Cr Paul Miles – ‘Cyber crime isn’t reported because some companies don’t want people to know.  Do you think there needs to be a State focus on reporting cyber crimes?’

Minister Andrews’ Response – When someone steals your identity online a police car is not going to show up at your house, there needs to be more education around the process of reporting cyber crimes in general.  More work is needed in the cyber security space but currently the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) is carrying out research and also liaises with the Federal Police.  Cyber crime should be reported to the ACSC using their online form, they will contact you directly but have limited ability to recover money.   The Minister shared the largest example of a cyber attack that she was aware of on an individual, who reported a loss of $1.1m from their superannuation through identity theft.  The threat of cyber crime is increasingly concerning but the tools Police have to investigate where attacks are coming from, how they are taking place, as well as how to prevent them and recover funds is very limited.

Question – Agata Dharma, Business Station – ‘Business Station runs the Digital Solutions program offering business advice to small business, businesses can contact Business Station for advice and support if they are hacked or are looking for cyber security advice.  One stream that is offered is online security and data privacy, but small business only seem keen to learn about sales or marketing topics and do not take cyber security seriously.    Does the Federal Government have budget to promote cyber security and normalise it as an important business issue?  What can we do to raise the awareness amongst small business?’

Minister Andrew’s Response – The Federal Government has been running a campaign across television and radio called ‘Beat Cyber Crime in your Down Time,’ which tries to encourage people to update passwords in the ad breaks, or switch on two factor authentication, however this is targeted at individuals and not business.  COVID has forced more businesses online, exposing customer data and increasing the opportunities for cyber attacks, the Federal Government will continue to advertise to raise awareness of the issue.

However, it isn’t just the role of Government to spread the word and increase awareness, small business need to manage their own data and security and spread the word too.  Insurance companies reduce premiums for house insurance policies based on whether the property has alarms, cctv, locks on windows etc, we are working with them to provide checklists on what businesses can put in place to reduce cyber insurance premiums, but a lot of work needs to be done and we need to use Association’s, CCI’s and IT professionals to get the word out there too.

Question – Steve Edwards, ActivIT Systems – ‘Working in the industry for the past 20 years, I have seen cyber go through the roof in the last few years.  As an IT Professional we also talk to Insurance Brokers, businesses can take security measures but the discount is marginal compared to the cost of implementing extra security and training, so it isn’t an incentive to small business.  We have seen businesses knocked back completely for cyber insurance cover.  Small business can throw money at software solutions but the main issue is user awareness training, we find that they don’t have time to address cyber security until it’s too late, and then they have to find the time.

Has the Federal Government had any feedback on the recent budget announcement for the Small Business Technology Investment Boost and the Small Business Skills and Training Boost?’

Minister Andrew’s Response – As part of the 2022–23 Budget, the Australian Government announced that it will support small business through the following new measures.  Small businesses will be able to deduct an additional 20 per cent of the cost incurred on business expenses and depreciating assets that support their digital adoption, such as portable payment devices, cyber security systems or subscriptions to cloud based services.  They will also be able to deduct an additional 20% of expenditure incurred on eligible training
courses provided to employees.  Read more here.  Although a lot of positive feedback has been received, we are learning that businesses need educating on what training or software to use, this information isn’t widely known or available.

Linda Aitken, Liberal Candidate for Pearce asked for an update from Wanneroo Business Association and the City of Wanneroo:

Lauren Bell, Wanneroo Business Association – There has been a significant increase in the number of members and local businesses being hacked, locked out of social media accounts or finding fake profiles of their businesses.  There is no information readily available on the correct process to follow once this happens, and there are huge frustrations when trying to communicate with social media companies to resolve situations.  It is also very apparent that most small businesses don’t take cyber security seriously until it’s too late, and then they expect an IT professional to be able to fix the situation, when the damage is already done.

Steven Windsor, WBA Board Member – As a business advisor I find that small business owners are more interested in finding out about tax information, structure advice, social media and marketing but there is so much more for them to consider when running a business and there needs to be available information or a go to place for businesses.

Steve Marmion, City of Wanneroo – Our Advocacy and Economic Development team have worked with ECU’s CyberCheck.Me  since 2012 to offer free cyber security audits and checks to local small businesses.  There is a new booking system and are now offering online consultations too.

Question – City of Wanneroo Cr Jordan Wright – ‘I have been hearing from businesses in my area that once hacked it is extremely difficult to communicate with social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, there needs to be more advocacy in that area to put pressure on these organisations.  Can the Federal Government help with this?’

Minister Andrew’s Response – There is a 2 step process for reporting any cyber crime, the first is to use the contact form with ACSC who are linked in with the Federal Police and who log the attacks and issues.  They will then send you to IDCare who will assist with recovering funds, but we are aware that a stronger referral and reporting system is needed.

Question – Lloyd Kelbrick, ACL Migration Agents – ‘There has been an increase in migration applications for software engineers and cyber experts but processing times are frustrating agents and employers.  Can the Government look at improving processing times for skilled workers?’

Minister Andrew’s Response – With the number of COVID travel exemption applications increasing since border closures, resources were taken away from migration applications, stretching out application times.  Things have now swung back the other way, increasing capacity for migration applications and improving wait times, prioritising skilled and international student visas.  This is something the Dept of Home Affairs will continue to push.  Unemployment rate sits at 4% nationally, the lowest it has been in years and it is predicted to drop to 3%, this means skilled migration is important as we don’t have enough people readily available to train up.

Useful Links

Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC)

Report a Cyber Crime to ACSC

IDCare Cyber Support and Advice



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