MORE than half the small businesses hit with a cyber security breach go out of business within six months.
Now business in the twin towns is being warned to take an urgent look at online security as the threat of cyber-crime increases.
Many businesses and individuals have been targeted by online criminals, with some losing thousands through identity theft and ransomware.
A best practice guide has been developed to help small business operators understand the risks and how to prevent cyber-attacks.
The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman published the guide after research showed 60 per cent of small firms that experienced a cyber breach went out of business within the following six months.
Computer technicians in Echuca-Moama said some of the most common forms of cyber-attack were phishing and ransomware.
Phishing occurs when a scammer contacts you pretending to be from a legitimate business such a bank, telephone or internet service provider.
If you provide the scammer with your details online or over the phone, they can use them to carry out fraudulent activities, such as using your credit cards.
COPS Echuca computer technician Denis Memedovski said he has seen many cases of scammers impersonating a legitimate company (commonly Microsoft) to gain control of a victim’s computer.
“People can lose everything when this happens,” he said.
“A lot of people aren’t aware of these scams and they go along with the scammers requests thinking they’re legitimate.
“If they get in, they have remote access and full control of your computer. They can then do whatever they want with your data, including locking it and demanding a ransom to unlock it.
“The scammers can be very convincing but people have to be aware that no legitimate company would ever contact you and ask you to do all these things on your computer.”
Ransomware is a type of malware that blocks or limits access to your computer or files, and demands a ransom be paid to the scammer for them to be unlocked.
Infected computers often display messages to convince you into paying the ransom.
Scammers may pretend to be from the police and claim you have committed an illegal activity and must pay a fine, or they may simply demand payment for a ‘key’ to unlock your computer.
If you pay the ransom, there is no guarantee your computer will be unlocked.
Smartmove Computing technician Ben Stores said ransomware was commonly received via an email impersonating a legitimate company.
“People receive emails from someone pretending to be an electrical company or Australia Post – they can be very convincing,” he said.
“The emails will ask you to install software or download an attachment which gives the scammer the ability to lock your data and demand a ransom.
“It’s exceptionally difficult to recover the data when it has been locked and some people have lost everything because of ransomware.”
Mr Stores said the best way people can protect themselves from ransomware was to have an up-to-date antivirus program installed and to have regular backups of data.
“Data needs to be backed up a minimum of three times a week to safeguard against losing everything,” he said.
“Legitimate companies will never send emails requesting personal details or asking you to install an attachment or software.”
The free small business guide is available at asbfeo.gov.au/cybersecurity
For more information about scams or to report one, visit scamwatch.gov.au