Safeguarding Small and Medium Businesses against Cyber Attacks

Overview

As more and more businesses move to digital and cloud-based operations, small and medium businesses (SMBs) are increasingly being placed at risk of cyber-attacks (ACSC). Global events such as the Covid-19 pandemic have forced many business owners to move their business online, and this rapid move to online and cloud-based operations increases the risk of cyber threats. However, for many of these businesses, cyber security isn’t a priority (ACSC).

In July 2021, the RMIT Cyber Ready CIC took on the challenge of improving the cyber security capabilities of Small to Medium Businesses (SMBs) across SMBs in Australia and New Zealand, with the help of the Amazon Web Services (AWS) SMB team.

Two multidisciplinary teams of students worked on a challenge statement presented by the AWS SMB week over 12 weeks in a fast-paced and dynamic Innovation Challenge.

Problem

Small to Medium BusinessSMB owners lead busy lives, often managing high workloads and juggling competing priorities. Many don’t have the time to spend on understanding the complexities of the systems and applications that prop up their business operations, or the associated risks that exist alongside them.

As we see a transformation around the world towards a digitised economy, cyber security is becoming more and more critical. SMBs are increasingly the target of cyber-attacks, and the impacts that a cyber security incident can have on a business can be devastatinghave significant impacts. It is critical for business owners to understand the risks that are involved within the systems and applications they use to run their business.

The AWS SMB team asked CIC students to think about how we might help SMBs think about building applications within their businesses that are secure by design. As we see a shift from on- premises computing to cloud., AWS customers often don't realise what good security posture looks like. The student teams wanted to look at ways to help Small to Medium BusinessesSMBs protect themselves and reduce their vulnerability of cyber-attack.

How might we increase the capability of Australia and New Zealand Small and Medium Businesses to better respond to cyber-attacks?

Approach

To address the problem statement presented, students adopted a customer-centric design thinking approach. AWS Digital Innovation Lead, Catherine Eibner, guided students through Amazon’s signatory ‘Working Backwards’ methodology across a series of interactive and engaging online workshops. Students used tools such as persona identification and journey mapping to ensure they understood with great specificity their customer and the problem(s) they face.

The AWS Working Backwards method is a highly creative yet structured approach to innovation. Participants are encouraged to think big and generate wild ideas, before consolidating their thinking and producing three artifacts:

  • Press Release (a mock press announcement for their product or service, dated in the future)
  • FAQs document (outlining and answering the key concerns participants foresee customers having)
  • Visuals (showing how the customer will engage with the product or service)

Outcomes

After developing a refined understanding of their problem statement and customer through the Working Backwards process, students moved into ‘solutioning’ mode. AWS Senior Solutions Architect, Bobbie Couhbor guided students through facilitated workshops and one-on-one support to develop prototypes of the proposed solution ideas.

The teams tested and trialled a range of different AWS services, including Amazon Sumerian, Amazon Cognito, and AWS Lambda, to bring their ideas to reality.

Team Cyber

Team Cyber created a solution called Scenar.io, an online cyber awareness platform that delivers analytics-driven, relevant, and time-efficient cyber security training in a virtual 3D simulation. Real-world cyber-attacks are replicated in the virtual training scenario, such as phishing, malware and ransomware, and users can engage with and understand the threat and impact these attacks can have for a small to medium businessSMBs.

Team Security99

Team Security99 developed Code Secure, a pipeline tool that helps SMBs analyse their code and reduce cyber risk. Targeted at a business’s inhouse development team, the tool provides secure insights at the early stage of product development, helping the team identify vulnerabilities and recommending minor security fixes.

Supporting Artifacts Created by the Students

About the RMIT CIC

The RMIT Cyber Ready CIC is a collaboration between RMIT and Amazon Web Services (AWS) and forms part of a growing global network of Cloud Innovation Centres (CICs) designed to address public sector challenges through digital innovation.

The CIC is based at RMIT’s home of innovation and entrepreneurship, Activator, and draws from experts across various fields, including RMIT’s Blockchain Innovation Hub, Health Transformation Lab and RMIT Online – giving partners access to the best innovative thinkers and brightest young minds from across the University.

The CIC is backed by AWS’ cloud technology and expertise in machine learning, high-performance computing and data analytics, ensuring prototypes are equipped to deliver practical solutions using cutting edge tools and technology.

About Challenge Sponsor

For over 15 years, Amazon Web Services has been the world’s most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud offering. AWS has been continually expanding its services to support virtually any cloud workload, and it now has more than 200 fully featured services for compute, storage, databases, networking, analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), mobile, security, hybrid, virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR), media, and application development, deployment, and management from 81 Availability Zones within 25 geographic regions, with announced plans for 27 more Availability Zones and nine more AWS Regions in Australia, Canada, India, Indonesia, Israel, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Arab Emirates. Millions of customers—including the fastest-growing startups, largest enterprises, and leading government agencies—trust AWS to power their infrastructure, become more agile, and lower costs. To learn more about AWS, visit aws.amazon.comAmazon Web Services (AWS) is the world’s most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud platform, offering over 200 fully featured services from data centres globally. Millions of customers—including the fastest-growing startups, largest enterprises, and leading government agencies—are using AWS to lower costs, become more agile, and innovate faster. Small and minority companies are critical drivers of global diversified and inclusive economic growth. The AWS SMB team provides exclusive access to technical, business, and marketing support for small or medium AWS partners. 

Thanks go to Challenge Sponsors

  • Bill Vlandys​ - Head of SMB (Small and Mid-Sized Businesses)​, Amazon Web ServicesAWS
  • Stuart Forsyth -​ Manager, Solution Architects, Amazon Web ServicesAWS ​
  • Dean Lawrence​ - Senior Partner, Development Specialist - Security, APJ​, Amazon Web ServicesAWS

Cyber Ready CIC Team

  • Matt Salier, Director, RMIT Cyber Ready Cloud Innovation Centre
  • Meg San Miguel, Program Delivery Lead, RMIT Cyber Ready Cloud Innovation Centre
  • Bobbie Couhbor, Senior Solutions Architect, Cloud Innovation Australia, New Zealand & Oceania, AWS
  • Catherine Eibner, Head of Cloud Innovation Australia, New Zealand & Oceania, AWS
  • Georgia Smith, Cloud Innovation Program Manager, Australia, New Zealand & Oceania, AWS
  • Nivetha Thandapani, Business Innovation Support Intern, RMIT Cyber Ready Cloud Innovation Centre
  • Zian Fernandes, Technical Innovation Support Intern, RMIT Cyber Ready Cloud Innovation Centre

Students

Team Cyber

  • Shreyas Walujkar
  • Mohamad Geeleh
  • Yeshi Chodon
  • Logesh  Vemkatsamy Ravichandran
  • Sherin Jose

Team Security 99

  • Deeksha Kini
  • Prasant Shanmugasekar
  • Holly Wong
  • Neha Thakur
  • Ronit Pradhan

Become an industry sponsor

Engage in a fast-paced innovation sprint that sees multidiscplinary teams of students working on a real-life cyber security challenge faced by your organisation.

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Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.

aboriginal flag
torres strait flag

Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business.