hacker threatSmall businesses are increasingly being targeted by computer hackers because their security is not as tough as larger companies, according to a Government report.
 
Cyber-crime is estimated to cost Australian businesses up to $1 billion every year, and the report claims 60 per cent of businesses hit by a cyber attack went out of business within six months.
 
However, small business-owners have largely indicated they did not believe they were in danger of being targeted.
 
The report shows only a quarter of small business owners thought they were at risk of having their data stolen and held to ransom, and less than half kept their anti-virus software up to date.
 
Only 2 per cent of small businesses treated protections against hacking as a priority.
 
Cybersecurity expert Matt Tett said many people mistakenly believed large companies, like cheating website Ashley Madison, were more likely to be targeted by hackers.
"Small businesses, they're really the ones at risk, you hear about all the big ones, they're the big names, but small businesses are the ones that are being targeted by things like ransomware and cryptolocker," he said.
 
Ransomware works by invading a computer system and locking a user's access to certain files.
 
A user can regain access by paying a ransom to the hacker.
 
Cryptolocker works on a similar premise, but encrypts all the files on a computer.
 
Mr Tett said the relatively small ransoms requested meant small businesses often pay hackers, rather than have the malicious software removed by a professional.
 
"The criminals are really looking to get paid $400, $500, $1,000," he said.
 
"At the end of the day if it's going to take you a week to recover your information, people would rather pay the $500 and get their data back straight away."
 
Awareness key to fighting cyber attacks
 
Monday marks the start of the Federal Government's Stay Smart Online Week, and the Government has published a new guide, detailing how businesses can improve their network's security.
 
The guide calls for businesses to take simple steps, such as creating complex passwords, and backing up data, to safeguard against hackers.
 
But Mr Tett said awareness was the single largest factor in preventing hacking attacks.
 
"Some people don't even practise the basic steps," he said.
 
"You don't leave your car unlocked in the main street, you don't leave your house unlocked, people are still doing that with personal devices and their networks."
 
The report indicated the money lost by businesses each year is growing, and Mr Tett said business owners could no longer ignore the need for cybersecurity.
 
"It's like any technology - people bury their heads in the sand and think 'well, I don't have time for that," Mr Tett said.
 
"Particularly small businesses, they're financially strapped, they're resource strapped, they're focused on ensuring their business is surviving and they're making money."
 
"They're not necessarily thinking about risks like this."
 
Source: ABC News