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Strengthening Cybersecurity to Reduce Ransomware Attacks in New Zealand

Cybersecurity is important because it safeguards all types of data against theft and damage. Sensitive data, personally identifiable information (PII), protected health information (PHI), personal information, intellectual property, data, and government and industry information systems are all included.

Organisations would not be able to defend themselves against data breach campaigns without a cybersecurity programme, making it an easy target for cybercriminals. Cyberattacks on critical infrastructures, such as power systems, have significant economic consequences and risk becoming targets in international conflicts.

A Waikato New Zealand company have developed a cybersecurity system to protect critical infrastructure from hackers, such as power lines and manufacturing, as companies around the world pay millions of dollars in ransom to cyberattacks.

The cybersecurity system, which is a spinoff from a commercial organisation and also the University of Waikato’s commercialisation arm, is intended to protect infrastructure control systems from cyberattacks, such as wastewater and electricity networks, fuel and gas lines, and manufacturing facilities.

The company has partnered with New Zealand’s largest installer of industrial control systems, and the system is being rolled out following an initial stock offering through the commercial organisation and a commercialisation partner. As per the organisation Commercialisation Manager, the cybersecurity system was piloted with three large New Zealand companies and is now used by two large manufacturing businesses. They are also in discussions with industrial control installers from Australia, the United States, Europe, and Asia.

“As we’ve seen with recent cyberattacks, the need for better cybersecurity systems is very real and there are currently few options for the protection of the infrastructure vital to our modern society,” said the organisation’s Commercialisation Manager.

As infrastructure and manufacturing control systems moved online and businesses sought to connect operations such as accounting and manufacturing, they exposed themselves to cyber attackers. Crown agency CERT NZ reported that between January and March this year there were 1400 reported cybersecurity incidents in New Zealand costing around $3 million.

Director of Research and Enterprise at the University of Waikato mentioned that traditionally, the computing technology that controls the plants of manufacturing facilities has been separate from IT systems, so if hackers wanted to break in, they needed to be physically present in the plant. “As we’ve connected things like accounting systems with manufacturing, industrial control systems have moved online and anything that’s connected to the internet can be hacked.”

While most cybersecurity tools manage the periphery, such as a firewall on your personal computer, First Watch was designed to work at the core of an industrial control system, creating a zero-trust environment by scanning for and refusing to respond to any data that should not be on the system. The system was also designed to perform a full inventory of all assets on a network and identify any that have not been updated or pose a risk.

Correspondingly, the New Zealand Government’s Communications Minister launched an action plan & national plan to address cybercrime and ensure New Zealanders are safe from online crime.

This new strategy highlights New Zealand’s vision of being secure, resilient, and prosperous online. Individuals will be safe online due to this strategy, while New Zealand businesses will be able to thrive and function. This strategy also recognises that New Zealand’s ability to be secure and resilient online is critical to developing a more productive and competitive economy. The Cyber Security Strategy includes 4 goals:

  • Cyber Resilience
  • Cyber Capability
  • Addressing Cybercrime
  • International Cooperation

Cyberattacks on critical infrastructure are a real threat, and governments all over the world are already sitting up and taking notice. As with all cybercrimes, governments and cybersecurity experts are struggling to keep up with the sophisticated technologies and tactics used by cybercriminals.

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