Hacking fears take small businesses offline

After Ken Taylor’s personal computer was hacked he is concerned about the impact hacking would have on his restaurant Templestowe Living Room.

“I went into a website which was a bogus site and it basically took a hold of my computer,” Taylor says. “I got a phone call wanting to fix my computer for $500 and I just ripped all the plugs out. After a while I turned it back on again and fortunately nothing further happened but I ended up having to get advice from my security people. They did a complete search and got rid of some dodgy stuff that had been implanted in the system.”

Taylor says the restaurant’s website is “essential” to the business which turns over $2 million a year and employs 30 staff but research published on Tuesday shows hacking fears mean increasing numbers of small businesses are not hosting their own websites.

Sensis surveyed more than 1000 small businesses and found the proportion of small and medium businesses worried about hacking jumped from 69 per cent to 81 per cent this year.

The 2017 Sensis eBusiness Report found this concern was driving a fall in the number of businesses hosting their own website, which is down from 61 per cent to 52 per cent.

While website ownership was down the number of businesses with another form of internet presence increased from 28 per cent to 80 per cent in one year.

Of those businesses without a website, 70 per cent are listed in an online directory (up from 19 per cent) and 54 per cent have a social media presence (also up from 19 per cent).

Sensis digital manager Alice Mentiplay says growth in businesses with websites has stalled over the past year.

“Hacking isn’t a reason to avoid hosting a website or using e-commerce,” she says. “Business owners can take some very simple steps to protect their site and still enjoy the benefits of selling products online.”

Mentiplay recommends small businesses have Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate on their sites to encrypt all communications between a web browser and their server.

“You can tell if a site is secure if its address starts with HTTPS rather than HTTP,” she says.

If a small business takes payments online Mentiplay recommends ensuring the payment gateway provider is compliant with Payment Card Industry – Data Security Standards. This ensures customers’ credit card information is encrypted and secure as there’s no need to store credit card information on the website.

“Generally, hackers want to steal your customers’ credit card information,” says Mentiplay.

Other key findings from the research include a growing disconnect between businesses and consumers online with 79 per cent of consumers using smartphones to access the internet this year while 71 per cent used computers. However only 35 per cent of businesses have mobile-friendly sites, with six in 10 not planning to upgrade.

Sensis found increasing numbers of businesses are spending money on online advertising, with social media advertising up from 34 per cent to 48 per cent, digital display advertising up from 32 per cent to 45 per cent and search engine optimisation up from 32 per cent to 45 per cent.

There was a slight decline in search engine marketing, which dropped from 16 per cent to 15 per cent.

Online sales as a share of total sales continue to increase for small and medium businesses, rising from 32 per cent to 45 per cent over the past four years.

Taylor says his experience with hacking has made him cautious.

“Everybody needs to be aware and keep their security software up to date,” he says. “With IT everything you do is related to it, your till systems, your booking systems, everything, if that goes down you will be in trouble.”

Taylor is working to revamp his website for Templestowe Living Room and security is high on his list of priorities.

“We are developing a new website with an email generator system and data gathering so rather than just being static it will be very dynamic,” he says. “We will be looking at people entering information so it has to be very robust and secure.”


Leave a Reply