Think Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Region and probably what will come to mind is images of white sands, islands and sunny skies. Unfortunately, it is also an area that is vulnerable to cybercrime, and it is small businesses that are particularly at risk. Oh, and by the way, it can get cold!
When IDCARE’s Cyber Resilience Outreach Clinics drove into town on 13 June, it wasn’t your normal Whitsunday weather. It was freezing! Despite the frosty surrounds (verging on single digits at night) we had the warmest welcome from the Whitsunday Region Chamber of Commerce as we set up at the Coral Sea Marina early on Monday, 14 June.
The Whitsunday region is in IDCARE’s top 50 most vulnerable postcodes to cybercrime and our data has shown there has been a significant number of people who have contacted our National Case Management Centre because their identity has been compromised, but they are not sure how. We call this source of compromise the “unknown” and people in this category tend to experience more misuse than others. They’re also more stressed because they don’t know what has caused the misuse. Our case managers help people understand how they can find out what credentials may have been compromised and what steps they can take to protect their identity going forward. But it is not only individuals who are being impacted by cybercrime, the Whitsunday Region Chamber of Commerce President, Allan Milostic, is concerned about the risks for small businesses.
Mr Milostic has lived in the Whitsundays region for nearly 30 years, he has owned a small business that has grown reasonably big, and he has been Chamber president for the last six years. He said that Whitsunday small businesses had been through a tough few years thanks to the impact of COVID-19 on tourism and cyber security was often hard to prioritise.
“What is unique about the Whitsundays is there are a lot of small businesses running fairly technical operations, both in tourism and hospitality and environmental eco-tourism,” Mr Milostic said.
“It is something small businesses don’t really think about, that is cyber security. But they are the ones who possibly have the most to lose and are most at risk. Hackers can get into all sorts of accounts…. They need to learn how to protect themselves.”
CROC’s analysts were on site to speak to small business owners like coffee van owner, Kathy Moon, about simple steps to take to protect their accounts. Ms Moon was sick of scammers and she left a heartfelt message for them in our Scream at a Scammer booth.
Our team also spoke to a local woman who spoke of her heartbreak following a relationship scam that lasted many months. She said she felt so stupid for being scammed as she was a smart woman who had always been careful and never thought she would be caught out. She didn’t only end up witha broken heart, she lost around $10,000.
The local media attended our CROC clinic, along with councillor Jan Clifford and representatives from business groups. Unfortunately, by the time the weather started to warm up, it was time for our CROC team to get on the road again. We have left material with the Chamber of Commerce and Cr Clifford in case you missed us.