Auckland City and Sky Tower at Night, Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland at night. Source: Shutterstock

Does New Zealand have a cybersecurity awareness problem?

  • New CERT NZ report outlines how New Zealanders’ attitudes to security has not kept pace with the accelerated digitalization 

No place is safe from the specter of cybersecurity threats in 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic pushes the adoption of digital tools and services like never before.

The same is true in New Zealand, where businesses underwent unprecedented digital transformation this year, but new data from research firm CERT NZ indicates that the behavior of Kiwis towards cybersecurity is not catching up fast enough.

CERT NZ is a national entity for monitoring and tracking cybersecurity lapses, and its latest quarterly findings are pretty eye-opening. While 87% of New Zealanders are aware and acknowledge that protecting personal data is important online, an unexpected 40% say safeguarding their information is inconvenient.

Furthermore, nearly a third of Kiwis admit to not checking or updating the privacy settings of their social media accounts. A virtually identical amount of people do not make use of two-factor authentication (2FA) to secure their accounts or devices.

A data breach can cost businesses US$3.86 million on average to recover from, according to a report by IBM Security that is based on the experiences of more than 500 organizations worldwide. “For most New Zealand companies, this would mean the end of their business,” according to independent technology cooperative New Zealand Tech Alliance’s chief executive, Graeme Muller.

“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.

The CERT NZ research also uncovered that thousands of New Zealander individuals and businesses are subjected to virtual blackmail and fraud every year due to their complacency around basic security measures.

“So, that is the real impact business owners need to urgently understand,” argues Muller. “Likewise, with personal cybersecurity, the effect can be devastating from loss of personal data and identity theft, to ransoms and direct monetary loss.”

In conjunction with NZ Cyber Smart Week last week, the CERT NZ report was a timely reminder that whether people and businesses choose to acknowledge cyber threats, vulnerabilities are more present than ever.

Not only did organizations and households embrace digitalization broadly this year, but the pandemic also the setting for a massive surge in phishing, malware, and other cyber threats, including many scams and hacks concerning the virus itself.

NZTech’s advice, like CERT NZ’s message, is: do not be the ‘it won’t happen to me’ victim,” said Muller. “Use a password manager, keep your device software up to date, and use two-factor authentication to dramatically improve your security. It is that simple.”