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New Zealand driving digital transformation and cyber resilience

The Government Communications Security Bureau’s (GCSB) National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) helps government agencies and organisations of national significance protect and defend their information systems against cyber-borne threats that are typically beyond the capability of commercially available products and services.

The NCSC works closely with CERT NZ (Computer Emergency Response Team) to provide guidance and help on cyber threats. CERT NZ helps business, organisations and individuals wanting prevention and mitigation advice on online security issues that do not require the NCSC’s specialist skills and knowledge to respond to. It has primary responsibility for cyber threat reporting and a coordination role in threat response.

With elections over, the NZ government can resume business which is good news for tech. NZ Cert, the government entity that tracks cyber breaches, feels that the economic growth policy takes a leaf out of the Singapore playbook, with a focus on industry transformation.

During the first lockdown, cabinet refocused their industry policy on specific sectors that were well-positioned for and would benefit from a high-intensity and high-investment strategy – digital tech, advanced manufacturing and sections of food and fibre. These sectors were considered sectors that had the potential to become highly productive and internationally competitive.

The Digital Technology Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) has been gotten off to a solid start. The ITPs provide a framework to proactively and collaboratively drive change with the government that would encourage and drive the growth of the tech sector.

Collaborative workstreams are exploring education pathways to accelerate the development of local skills. Changes in procurement approaches to stimulate the local tech sector have been put in place and the government is looking to get a better understanding of tech export successes. Work on the advanced manufacturing ITP has also started and this should be beneficial to the high-tech manufacturing and biotechnology parts of the tech sector. The government has also significantly worked on the development of a national AI strategy and data-driven innovation.

All of this in an effort to develop a robust narrative for a strong tech story for New Zealand.

As has been happening across the globe, COVID has dramatically increased New Zealand’s reliance on digital devices and the internet. Yet, NZTech Chief Executive Graeme Muller said CERT NZ research indicated that New Zealanders are not adjusting their behaviours around cybersecurity fast enough.

The research found 87%  of the country’s respondents acknowledge security of their personal information online is important but 40% say safeguarding their information is inconvenient. About a third do not regularly check the privacy settings on their social media accounts and the same number do not use two-factor authentication when logging into an online account. Even with increasing news reports about security issues such as ransomware, identity theft and hacks, people still do not think it will happen to them or their business, Muller says.

He quoted a recent global analysis of hacks and data breaches that estimated it would cost three million dollars on average for a company to recover from a successful hack. For the average New Zealand company, this could be disastrous, so business owners need to take cybersecurity seriously.

Similarly, consequences from breach of personal data, identity theft, ransomware, fraud and direct monetary loss could be significant. According to CERT NZ’s quarterly data, thousands of Kiwis are subject to cyber blackmail and fraud every year due to their complacency around simple security measures.

CERT NZ ran its Cyber Smart Week 2020 campaign from October 19 – 23, 2020. The main goal of the initiative is to increase the cyber resilience of New Zealanders making them, and the nation, less vulnerable to cyber attacks.

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