Frequently Asked Questions about cyber security

What is cyber security?

Cyber security is about protecting your computers, laptops and mobile devices from unintended or unauthorised access.  It is about keeping your information - including your personal and financial information - secure online.  If your computer, laptop, tablet or mobile isn’t secure, someone may be able to hack into it or import malicious software– making it easier for cyber criminals and others to take advantage.

What is the risk?  Why should I do anything about cyber security?

New Zealanders are doing more and more online, including on mobile devices.  We are emailing friends, surfing the internet, using social media, shopping, banking, and working online.  As a result, significant information and data – including personal and financial information - is stored in cyberspace.  While connectivity makes our lives easier, there are risks.

There are more and more reports about New Zealanders being affected by online theft and fraud, scams, malware, hacking and other mobile, computer and internet attacks. The techniques used to do this are increasingly sophisticated and evolving.

More than 80% of New Zealanders who use the internet say they have experienced a cyber security breach.  Yet 26% of New Zealanders don’t believe that they are at risk.  This is potentially leaving not only themselves, but also their friends, family and employer exposed.

There are risks for home users, businesses and government agencies.  The risks come from many sources, including criminal groups – many of them off-shore – out for financial gain. 

Businesses also need to be aware that there may be competitors looking for commercial advantage.  There may be current or former employees who deliberately or accidentally compromise information security.  Find out more on the Connect Smart Business page.

What should I do to improve my security online?

Improving your digital security is easy - it’s not complicated or expensive to take basic steps to protect yourself and your personal information. Don’t wait until it’s too late.  Find out more here.  

Key things to do include:

  • using strong passwords on your computer and mobile devices;
  • secure your computer and mobile devices (e.g. firewalls, up-to-date operating software, anti-virus software);
  • use secure wifi connections (especially for banking and other transactions);
  • be careful with emails from people you do not know and don’t click on unusual attachments;
  • take care with online shopping and payments.

More information for businesses and schools.

What should I do if I am affected by a cyber security breach?

There are a number of organisations that you can contact if you believe that you have been a victim of criminal activity online. The Police handle cybercrime, the Department of Internal Affairs deals with spam and objectionable material, and complaints about breaches of privacy can be reported to the Privacy Commissioner. Netsafe runs an online reporting tool for people to report cyber incidents. Find out more.

What is the cost of cybercrime in New Zealand?

It is hard to calculate the cost of cyber-crime because much of it is unreported.  There are some direct costs such as loss of funds from compromised bank accounts or online fraud.  Some categories of online crime are very hard to put a figure on, such as the cost to society of online child exploitation.  For businesses, it can be difficult to quantify the value of the loss of intellectual property or sensitive business information, the impact on business competitiveness and productivity, reputational harm or reduced public trust.  However, there have been attempts to derive a total figure, for example, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies put the figure for New Zealand at approximately $180m and Norton estimated the cost at $152m in 2013.

What is the government doing about cyber security?

The government’s approach to cyber security is set out in the 2015 New Zealand Cyber Security Strategy and Action Plan.

The Cyber Security Strategy has four intersecting goals: 1) Cyber resillience 2) Cyber capability 3) Addressing cybercrime and 4) International cooperation. 

The Strategy is underpinned by four principles: 1) Partnerships are essential 2) Economic growth is enabled 3) National security is upheld and 4) Human rights are protected online.

Improving cyber security is a shared responsibility. In developing the Strategy, the government sought input from a wide range of stakeholders across government, industry, non-government organisations and academia. A range of government agencies are involving in responding to malicious cyber activity, including the Police, Department of Internal Affairs, and the National Cyber Security Centre.  The overall approach to cyber security is led and coordinated by the National Cyber Policy Office with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 

How can I become a Connect Smart partner?

It’s easy to become a Connect Smart partner. You can find more information here.