The recent cybercrimes that have affected more than 230,000 businesses in 150 countries has been a wake-up call to the gravity and impact of cyber-crime on an international scale, with banks, hospitals and government agencies grinding to a halt.

One of the biggest reminders that came through in the wake of these events is that the most effective protection against cyber-crime is basic IT hygiene. Everyone from big to small business, to government, and individuals on their PCs at home need to be aware of the simple steps they can take to protect themselves against the attempts that threaten our cyber security.

Our recent Telstra Cyber Security whitepaper shows that more than half of Australian organisations surveyed detect a security breach on a monthly basis, twice as much as detected in 2015. We are a likely cyber-criminal target due to our economic growth combined with high adoption of technology compared to other countries in the region.

While the threat of cyber-crime continues to increase, education and awareness of cyber security remains low. As the report indicates, organisations believe that the main threat is cloud based services, however phishing via email and threats from malware have a higher threat level. What’s even more alarming is that less than half of companies report that they are not ready to handle these threats.

Raising awareness about cyber security is a critical first step, and organisations need to audit their internal systems and train teams to prepare and manage appropriately for any potential cyber-crime. The fundamental steps organisations can take to tackle this issue is through patching and network hardening. Together, patching and network hardening can help to monitor and update IT systems that are not running the latest operating system, and work to reduce security weaknesses that may be exploited by internal or external attackers.

On an educational front, organisations should invest time to run cyber security awareness training. This ensures that cyber security becomes a key focus for all employees and not just the IT team. The good news is that C-suite involvement in cyber security has steadily increased. As the report suggests, two out of three senior executives have a high or very high involvement in their cyber security initiatives in Australia and Asia.

The fight against cyber-crime is bigger than any organisation. We have to look at it like a team sport, which relies on governments, businesses, and communities, working together to ensure our consumers are protected, and our organisations are built to manage cyber-crime. If we want to mitigate the unknown threats facing us in the future IT environment and create a safer cyber world, then we need to work collectively to improve cyber security through basic IT hygiene, and increasing awareness for employees and consumers.