Computer hackers could be placing our businesses at risk.
Computer hackers could be placing our businesses at risk. leolintang

How hackers can hold 5000 Mackay businesses to ransom

ABOUT 5000 Mackay businesses risk being held to ransom by greedy hackers because of lax computer system security, experts say.

A new report by BDO Australia and AusCERT shows 48% of small and medium enterprises do not conduct regular cyber risk assessments, leaving them open to technology-based crimes.

Based on the 2016 Cyber Security Survey findings, this means at least 5001 of Mackay's 10,419 businesses could be in the firing line.

The biggest risk to our businesses is ransomware, with new research by virus software company Kaspersky Lab showing the attacks rose from one every two minutes to one every 40 seconds in Australia over the past 11 months.

Ransomware - or cryptolock - hacks usually happen when an unsuspecting email recipient opens a message purporting to be from reputable and trusted big name organisations such as Australia Post.

Unwitting recipients will click on a link that results in malicious software being installed on, and crippling, their employer's computer system.

Unprepared businesses can be forced to pay a ransom to have their data released.

The ransom will increase depending on the type and amount of data on the business's server and it is always paid in untraceable bitcoins.

One bitcoin is worth about $1000.

BDO cyber security national leader Leon Fouche said small business operators such as clothing retailers, health services and private education providers were more likely to pay the ransoms because they could be significantly cheaper than upgrading their security systems.

Mr Fouche said there was no guarantee the cryptolocker would not block the business's system again and there was also an increased risk of sensitive client information being stolen.

"Ransomware is such an easy way to actually get into organisations' environments because it exploits vulnerabilities and it can be done on a wide scale," Mr Fouche said.

"The hackers don't charge a lot of money for the ransom so it's probably easier for people to pay."

Mackay technology expert Deon Attard said businesses needed daily data backups, strong firewalls and clear instructions for all staff to avoid clicking on unexpected email attachments or links.

"Ransomware is the biggest issue and the hardest thing to protect against," the Easy Internet Services managing director said.

"A good quality firewall that's configured by an expert will provide you with some protection.

"And make sure you have good backups that are verified daily because if you do get hit by a ransomware attack, 99% of the time you'll have to restore your system from those backups."

Phishing - where hackers access systems to obtain usernames, passwords, credit card details and other information - is a common attack; as is the release of system-crippling malware or Trojan infections. - ARM NEWSDESK