A cyber attack is an attempt by an unauthorized third-party to disrupt or damage a computer network, system or device through the use of various methods, such as viruses, malware, phishing, ransomware and hacking. These attacks can cause significant financial loss, as well as damage to business reputation and customer trust.

According to the 2021 Cyber Security Survey conducted by the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, 67% of small businesses surveyed reported experiencing a cyber attack in the last 12 months. Additionally, the average cost of a cyber attack for a small business was found to be $3,310.

Small businesses are increasingly being targeted by cyber criminals due to their lack of robust security measures. Cyber attacks can have a devastating impact on the viability of small businesses, leading to financial loss, customer trust and reputational damage. The importance of having a strong cyber security plan in place cannot be overstated, and small business owners must take proactive steps to improve their cyber defenses.

The objective of this article is to provide small business owners in Australia with a comprehensive understanding of the consequences of cyber attacks on their businesses. We aim to highlight the importance of prioritizing cyber security and offer practical advice on how to protect their businesses from cyber threats.

The Costs of Cyber Attacks on Australian Small Businesses

Cyber attacks can have both immediate and long-term financial costs for small businesses in Australia. Immediate financial costs include paying ransoms, legal fees and system repairs. When businesses are hit by ransomware attacks, they have to decide whether to pay the ransom or not. Even when the ransom is paid, it does not guarantee that the data will be released.

Legal fees to hire a lawyer to manage the legal implications of cyber attacks can be costly for small businesses. System repairs and data recovery can also be expensive, especially when companies lose critical data in the attack.

Long-term financial costs can have a significant impact on small businesses, such as damage to reputation and loss of business. A cyber attack can destroy a business's hard-earned reputation, leading to a decline in revenue and loss of customer trust. In some cases, businesses may have to close their doors due to the long-term impacts of a cyber attack.

How Australian Small Businesses Can Be Vulnerable to Cyber Attacks

Small businesses in Australia are at risk of cyber attacks due to various reasons, including:

  • Lack of cyber security education and training for employees
  • Insufficient investment in cyber security tools and technology
  • Poor password management and multi-factor authentication
  • Outdated software and hardware
  • The use of personal devices for work purposes

Small businesses often neglect cyber security due to perceived costs, unawareness of risks and lack of knowledge of cyber threats. This leaves them vulnerable to cyber attacks that can cause significant damage to their operations, finances and reputation.

Given the increasing threat of cyber attacks in today's digital age, it is critical for small businesses to invest in cyber security measures and to educate employees about the importance of cyber security hygiene.

Preventative Measures to Reduce the Risk of a Cyber Attack

Small businesses are vulnerable to cyber attacks, but there are steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of a successful attack. The following measures can be implemented:

Development and implementation of a cyber security strategy and response plan

Small businesses should develop and implement a cyber security strategy to protect their assets from cyber threats. A response plan should also be in place to ensure that security incidents are contained and dealt with appropriately.

Investment in up-to-date hardware and software, including security updates and patches

Small businesses should invest in up-to-date hardware and software to ensure that their systems are secure. All security updates and patches should be installed as soon as they become available to protect against known vulnerabilities.

Strong password management policies and regular updates

Small businesses should have strong password management policies in place, including regular updates and changes to passwords. Passwords should be complex and not easy to guess, and they should never be shared or written down.

Employee education and training on cyber security best practices

Small businesses should educate and train their employees on cyber security best practices. This includes how to identify and respond to cyber threats, how to avoid phishing scams, and how to follow password management policies.

Awareness of common cyber threats and phishing scams

Small businesses should be aware of common cyber threats and phishing scams that can affect their organization. Employees should be trained to identify and report any suspicious activity to their IT department as soon as possible.

Regularly backing up important data and implementing a disaster recovery plan

Small businesses should regularly back up important data to protect against data loss in the event of a cyber attack. A disaster recovery plan should also be implemented to ensure that critical systems can be recovered quickly in the event of system downtime.

Purchasing cyber insurance

Small businesses should consider purchasing cyber insurance to mitigate the financial impact of a successful cyber attack. Cyber insurance can provide coverage for losses resulting from a cyber attack, including data recovery, business interruption, and liability claims.

What to Do if Your Small Business Falls Victim to a Cyber Attack

Despite your best efforts, your small business may still fall victim to a cyber attack. If this happens, it is important to take immediate action in order to minimize the damage and prevent future attacks. The following steps should be taken:

Isolate infected computers and devices

If you suspect that any of your computers or devices have been infected, disconnect them from your network immediately. This will prevent the infection from spreading to other parts of your network.

If necessary, alert customers, partners and employees about the attack

Depending on the nature of the attack, you may need to alert your customers, partners, and employees about what has happened. This will help them take necessary steps to protect their own information.

Seek professional help from a cyber security firm or law enforcement

A cyber security firm can help you assess the damage caused by the attack and develop a plan for preventing future attacks. Law enforcement can also be contacted if the attack involves criminal activity.

Conduct a post-attack review and implement necessary changes to prevent future attacks

After the attack has been contained, conduct a full review of your security measures and make necessary changes to prevent future attacks. This should include updating your anti-virus software, implementing stronger password policies, and ensuring that all software is updated with the latest security patches.


In conclusion, the cost of cyber attacks on Australian small businesses is significant and can have long-lasting effects on the business and its customers. The threat of cyber attacks is increasing, and small businesses need to take the necessary measures to protect themselves.

This article has explored the various costs of cyber attacks on small businesses in Australia, including financial costs, productivity loss, reputational damage, and legal consequences. It is clear that the impact of a cyber attack goes far beyond just financial loss.

Small businesses in Australia cannot afford to ignore the threat of cyber attacks. Investing in cyber security is a necessary expense to protect the business, its customers and ultimately, its bottom line. Implementing a cyber security plan is an investment in the future of the business.

Final thoughts

In today's digital world, every small business needs to take cyber security seriously. Ignoring the risks of a cyber attack can result in significant financial loss, irreparable reputational damage, and legal consequences. As cyber attacks become increasingly sophisticated, small businesses need to remain vigilant and take steps to protect themselves.

Author: Paige Estritori
Published: Wednesday 12th April, 2023
Last updated: Thursday 15th June, 2023

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