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New Zealanders unaware of common cyber scams, not taking basic precautions

By Shannon Williams
Thu 4 Nov 2021

Despite best intentions, most New Zealanders overlook key steps to protect sensitive data while working from home, leaving their personal information, and their employers, at risk.

That's the findings of the latest Unisys Security Index, which found that while two-thirds of New Zealanders (66%) say they are responsible for keeping their own data safe and secure while working from home, many are not aware of common cyber security risks.

The report found:

  • More than half (54%) are unaware of SMiShing when a scammer texts asking for personal or financial information;
  • 33% are not wary of clicking on links in a text message, email or social app;
  • 82% are not aware of SIM jacking when a fraudster gets your phone number transferred to a phone they control;
  • 74% dont know which organisation to report a scam to if they fall victim;
  • 42% say they are not as careful on their phone as on their laptop or computer when it comes to protecting their personal and financial details; and
  • One third (34%) admit they have downloaded or installed software, mobile apps or programs for work purposes that their IT department had not authorised or approved.
     

Yet, New Zealanders are very concerned about protecting their privacy and data security. In 2021, the top three security issues concerning New Zealanders are data/privacy related: Identity theft (52% of New Zealanders concerned about this issue), hacking and viruses (51%) and bankcard fraud (49%). Concern about hacking and viruses and identity theft recorded the greatest increases (+11 points and +9 points, respectively) over the last year. This marks a change of focus compared to 2020 when natural disasters, including pandemics, had been the top security concern for Kiwis.

"Employers rely on employees to do the right thing to prevent cyberattacks," says Gergana Winzer, industry director of cybersecurity, Unisys for Asia Pacific. 

"But this is a big ask when New Zealanders are being targeted by more ransomware attacks than ever before," Winzer says. 

"Moreover, the research shows that Kiwis are not attentive to cyber risks on mobile devices. Employers need to ensure that their security measures encompass mobile devices used for work even if they are owned by the employee. 

"Scammers tailor very sophisticated attacks that mimic organisations people trust in order to trick them into clicking on a link or downloading an app That may launch malicious code or cause them to unwittingly provide personal details. 

"And those details can be used for identity and financial fraud or to mimic their profile to access their employers systems."

Exploiting COVID-19

"COVID-19 creates new opportunities for criminals to take advantage of peoples trust in brands and responsiveness to familiar processes," says Winzer. 

"Home deliveries have increased markedly under COVID-19. CERT NZ recently warned of a malicious app that spread via links in text messages about parcel deliveries."

Winzer says there is a lot of focus on public and employee education campaigns to raise awareness of scams in order to avoid them. But education is only part of the solution - it must be repeated and continually updated to ensure people are alert to new sophisticated threats. 

"But humans will still make bad decisions accidentally or intentionally," she says. 

"So organisations also need a holistic approach to security that also includes processes, policies and technologies to make it extra hard for people to, without intending, do the wrong thing."

Security Linked to Employee Experience

New Zealanders gave a variety of reasons for intentionally installing unauthorised software and mobile apps: They wanted to use the same tools they use in their personal life for work purposes (39%); they needed it to do their job and their employer didn't provide a good alternative (38%); it was better than the tools their employer provided (35%); or for entertainment and personal use (33%).

"Security and employee experience are fundamentally integrated: employees who download unauthorised software risk creating unsecured links to devices and systems," Winzer says.

"But don't assume that shadow IT means you need to provide more tools. Look at what unauthorised apps are installed, and ask why: Is it really a gap in tools required to perform a job? Or is it because employees aren't aware of the functionality already available or are they simply reluctant to change from what they are familiar with? 

"Measure the adoption of approved tools including usability and experience to work out how to make them irresistible, to negate the temptation or need for individuals to install unauthorised software."

2021 Unisys Security Index: 15 Years and Counting

The 2021 Unisys Security Index for New Zealand, the overall measure of security concerns of the New Zealand public, is 140 out of 300, up four points from 2020 and the highest since 2017. Even so, it is the fourth lowest level of concern of the 11 countries. The study is the longest-running snapshot of consumer security concerns conducted globally. The 2021 Unisys Security Index surveyed 11,000 consumers in 11 countries, including 1,000 in New Zealand, in July 2021.
 

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