An RMIT Vietnam researcher will be part of a team from Australia, Vietnam and South Africa researching the cyber security problems faced by small and medium-sized businesses from 2015.
Associate Professor Mathews Nkhoma from the Centre of Commerce and Management will work with RMIT Melbourne's Professor Caroline Chan, Deakin University's Professor Matt Warren and Professor Mariki Eloff from the University of South Africa on the project, to be launched in early 2015.
Speaking at a seminar at RMIT Vietnam, Prof. Warren said small and medium sized businesses make a large contribution to the three countries' GDPs but have inadequate systems and strategies to deal with cyber crime.
He said there was a lack of direct assistance for these businesses and little information on where they could get help.
"A 2011 US study revealed 74 per cent of that country's small to medium sized businesses reported cyber attacks in 2009-2010, with each attack costing on average $190,000," Prof. Warren said.
"Most small and medium sized businesses have no formal internet policies and 40 per cent of them don't have an incident response plan should they lose data.
"Larger businesses are more likely to have formal security policies in place compared with smaller businesses."
Prof. Warren said that a 2012 survey of 4000 small Australian businesses linked online attacks to corruption of hardware and corruption or loss of data – but the Australian Federal Government's 2013 plan to combat cyber crime related to industry at higher levels and its technical language was unhelpful to smaller businesses.
"Small and medium sized businesses have limited technical knowledge and limited budgets," he said, citing the example of many Australian businesses caught up in the retaliation by the ANONYMOUS Indonesia collective to Edward Snowden's revelation that the Australian Government was spying on Indonesia.
"They hacked into 170 Australian websites, crashing them and leaving politically-motivated messages. Even the Australian Secret Service website crashed.
"Then they boasted about 58 of the hacked sites on Pastebin – all of them were small and medium sized businesses."
Prof. Warren said that while individual countries define small to medium sized businesses differently, Australia defines micro businesses as employing up to four people, small businesses up to 19 people and medium sized businesses 20-199 people.