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NZ's primary industries that support the bulk of the economy are least prepared for cybersecurity threats

Divina Paredes | Oct. 3, 2014
New survey conducted by University of Waikatofor and Vodafone reveals more than half of local businesses experience IT security attacks at least once a year.

New Zealand's primary industries have the poorest understanding of cybersecurity threats and are the least prepared to manage them, according to the Cyber Security NZ SME Landscape 2014 survey.

The survey, conducted early this year, covered 500 businesses across New Zealand. The majority of participants surveyed were in the service industry (56 per cent), followed by primary (15 per cent), retail (15 per cent) and secondary industries which include manufacturing and transport and storage (14 per cent).

Primary industries support the bulk of the New Zealand economy, says Dr Ryan Ko, senior lecturer at the University of Waikato. These industries include agriculture, forestry, fisheries, electricity, gas, mining and construction.

"If these and other export companies will face security glitches that might take the business down, it is not them who will just be affected, the whole of New Zealand is affected," says Ko on the key findings of the survey.

"We are on the same canoe, if one canoe has a hole, it will sink," Ko tells CIO New Zealand at the cybersecurity briefing organised by Vodafone, which had commissioned the survey undertaken by the University of Waikato's Cyber Security Lab headed by Ko, and Colmar Brunton.

Ko says the "good news" from the survey was that organisations holding "sensitive data" such as banking, finance, insurance, and professional services companies that handle scientific data, have the highest awareness of cybersecurity threats.

The survey found more than half (56 per cent) of New Zealand businesses experience IT security attacks at least once a year, and that 70 per cent have been affected by computer scams, online fraud or viruses and malware.

Moreover, nearly half of all companies survived (45 per cent) felt their business did not have adequate tools and policies in place to prevent or mitigate cyber threats.

"The statistics are pretty alarming across the board but for the primary industries, it is particularly concerning when you consider the huge importance of the sector to the New Zealand economy," says Colin James, head of security at Vodafone New Zealand.

Globally, James says Vodafone sees around 65 billion cyber-attack indicators against its own infrastructure per month, but it is also seeing a marked rise in the number of attacks within New Zealand.

"You get a lot of noise when it comes to security, how do you find that one little gem amongst all that noise that means something bad has happened and potentially you have been compromised?

"Geographical isolation isn't a safety net against threats. Gone are the days when all you needed was a firewall or virus scan to secure your company's private data. Threats are becoming more sinister and advanced in their capability; the players are the same, but the tools they have access to have evolved astronomically."


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