Australia’s cyber defences just received a boost, in a move that will make it harder for hackers to penetrate small business websites.

The government’s new Cyber Security Strategy will protect small businesses, according to Kate Carnell, the Australian Small Business & Family Enterprise ombudsman.

Ms Carnell said the government’s strategy is timely given recent cyber attacks on more than 20 small businesses, whose websites were hacked and used to publish pro-Islamic State messages.

“More and more, small businesses are turning to e-commerce to help grow their customer base and boost their bottom line. Many are capitalising on export opportunities in Asia, and are using their websites to connect with potentially millions of new customers offshore,” she said.

“In order to confidently develop an online presence, small businesses need to have the peace of mind that their digital shopfront is safeguarded against online threats, and that their private information – and that of their customers – is not at risk.”

Ms Carnell said while the Cyber Security Strategy would help small businesses, owners still need to be aware of cyber risks and have measures in place to prevent and respond to attacks.

“This includes drawing up an online security plan, ensuring their point-of-sale systems are protected, backing up their data and implementing robust password practices,” she said.