February 26, 2024

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New Zealand government must invest in cyber-risk education for citizens

New Zealand Tech Alliance (NZTech) whose purpose is “to connect, promote and advance tech ecosystems and help the New Zealand economy grow to create a prosperous digital nation”, feels that the government must be more proactive in educating the population on cybersecurity.

The body believes that New Zealanders must be educated about cyber risks through government funding to some extent. It’s time, they feel,  that the government allocate funds for educating people on avoiding becoming victims of cybercrime, much in the same way as there is funding for road safety.

NZTech chief executive Graeme Muller says as New Zealand businesses operate within an increasingly digital environment, cyber threats are growing in sophistication and magnitude. Organisations and businesses are facing increasing and rampant cybercrime threats and the situation is deteriorating. Almost a million New Zealanders are falling victim to cybercrime every year. According to a recent report, hundreds of the country’s businesses with online capabilities are now losing money to cyber-criminals.

In the third quarter of last year, 281 Kiwis’ businesses reported cybersecurity breaches and many others are likely to have suffered the same fate, without reporting it. The average direct financial loss for small to medium business is still relatively minor, only a few thousand dollars, so, it often goes unreported. However, it was also noted that at least 13 Kiwi businesses lost more than NZ$100,000 each near the end of last year.

According to Muller, about 87% of New Zealanders concede security of their personal information online is important, but 40% say safeguarding their information is inconvenient. Additionally, almost a third of New Zealanders do not regularly check the privacy settings on their social media accounts. Roughly the same number of people do not use two-factor authentication when logging into an online account.

He confirms that “the world of cybersecurity and attacks are rife, and CERT NZ, the government entity that tracks cyber breaches, says Kiwis are not protecting their digital systems. Ransomware has become the biggest threat, used by criminals to lock up people’s systems and data and then demand a ransom in return for their release. In the United States, agencies including the FBI have warned that the healthcare system is facing an increased and imminent threat of cybercrime. Furthermore, cybercriminals are unleashing a series of extortion attempts in the new frontier of crime aimed at locking up hospital information systems. Local businesses and organisations must act quickly to prevent future cyber hacks.

The government must do its part to encourage organisations and businesses to bring cybersecurity to the front of their digital strategy to ensure they are operating at their peak and to protect both customers and staff. As part of its efforts to promote cybersecurity education, NZTech had the biggest cyber risk summit in Wellington on February 24. Attendees heard experts and peers at the front lines of cybersecurity discuss the realities of cyber risk in the modern business environment.

Statistics released in the summit revealed that 66% of businesses attacked make no substantial changes to prevent future attacks. With criminals often only taking small amounts the individual cost feels small, whereas the collective economic cost is huge. What businesses do not normally consider is the risk of reputational damage if data is stolen and the public finds out about it. There are also costs of fixing systems that get damaged by hackers.

OpenGov Asia reported on a study done by a New Zealand cybersecurity firm that says as organisations accelerate their spending on cloud migration and digitalisation to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, many may be overestimating their ability to protect their systems and their processes. It is estimated that about 80% of cybercrimes could be prevented. Simple measures like using and updating complex passwords and installing updates go a long way in safety.


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