28 May 2024


Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Bruce Billson interview with Laura Tchilinguirian.

ABC News Radio


Subject: Ombudsman’s guide for small business - using social media securely


Laura Tchilinguirian 

We’ve heard plenty about cyber hacks of late and often the targets seem to be small businesses who are also active online. So how can they protect themselves? Well, the Small Business Ombudsman has released a guide for these businesses on how to use their social media in a secure way. Bruce Billson is the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, and he joins us now. Bruce, thanks very much for coming on to ABC News Radio. How can small businesses reduce their chances of being hacked? 

Bruce Billson

Laura, great to be with you and your listeners.

There's a few things that we're recommending. What we’ve seen is a more than doubling of the number of disputes we've assisted or resolved where small business dependent on these digital platforms all of a sudden finds rather than a world of opportunities they're experiencing a world of pain.

That pain can be being locked out of your own account. That could be credit cards linked to your account that you've been using for advertising and other purposes on that platform being taken over by a scammer who's got nefarious ideas in mind, such as paying for promotions that don't help your business, maybe even changing and compromising your network presence to look like your somebody else.

But in all cases, that's causing you quite an amount of harm through lost customer contact, maybe payments that you haven't authorised being actioned. And in some cases even using your digital platform presence to gain access into related accounts that then see the hacker having a terrible time for people that you've been doing business with. 

So, we've come up with a guide to give people some tips about how to protect themselves, still get the benefit of those platforms. So, Laura, for some businesses, this is the sole contact channel with their customers and how they present what they do to the world and trying to make sure it stays doing good things for you is what we're about. 

Laura Tchilinguirian 

Would you say that small businesses are an easy target for hackers? 

Bruce Billson

Well, they can be. And they are a target of choice for some hackers because there are these related capabilities linked with their digital presence.

For you and I on our Insta account, we might just have a little bit of chat with family and friends and post great videos of our Cavoodles trying to mimic being cattle dogs. That's great. That's funny. If we lose that that functionality because our site’s taken over, our page has been hacked, that's a hardship, but it's not the end of the world, perhaps.

But for a small business, this is their front door to their customers. And there are these other related capabilities that the platforms are really useful for so many small and family businesses, but also open up a new kind of vulnerability. I mentioned those linked advertising accounts. You might have a credit card attached to that functionality. There may be entry points into your customer’s accounts that might be compromised as well. 

So, what we're saying is have a level of privacy and settings on that account that you're comfortable with, knowing that risk is there, and that you can easily control.

Make sure that other profiles or users that are linked to your account are aware... well, we'd say remove those where they're not necessary, but really be on top of what sort of risks that might represent. 

I know I've got a credit card that I use for online sales, for instance, that has a very low balance on it. So even if it is compromised, there’s only so much harm that can be done. And that's also another thing that we recommending.

And also, you know, make sure that the accounts are set up so that if the account itself is compromised, there is another way, a recognised way that the platforms can contact you. Because, Laura, you know what it's like when your locked out of your account and the first bit of advice you get is ‘get into your account to tell us you’re locked out of it’.

That's the sort of nonsense we're trying to find a workaround for and keep small businesses benefiting from these platforms. But really take protection and safeguards seriously so that they're not compromised and don't see harm to their business, their finances and their relationship with their customers. 

Laura Tchilinguirian 

Bruce, how easy is the guide for these small businesses to follow?

Bruce Billson

Look, it should be straightforward. We've worked it up based on the cases that we've been involved with, where we've had real life practical examples of people having their accounts compromised. We've even worked with Meta to make sure that the resources that they have, which are very much self-help, are sort of plugged in as well. 

But, you know, we're also calling on these platforms to do their job and take their responsibilities more seriously.

And that means stepping up. And, here's a novel idea, Laura, how about actually having a person you can contact to talk through your concerns? We don't think that's too much to ask. So, we're also saying that these platforms lift your game and take your responsibility seriously. 

And if all else fails, small and family businesses can contact my agency and then we say to these platforms, if you want us to help, give us someone real to talk to and help us problem solve, because this is a very important channel to customers that small and family businesses are increasingly relying upon. 

Laura Tchilinguirian 

Bruce, we'll have to leave it there. But thanks very much for that guidance. And people can head to the Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman website to find out more. 

Bruce Billson

Absolutely. www.asbfeo.gov.au  There's a whole bunch of tools there. Jump online and you can access that resource that we've been discussing.

Laura Tchilinguirian 

Excellent. That is Bruce Billson, the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman.