A third of NZ's top employers back Netsafe on cybersecurity week

First Cybersecurity Awareness Week promotes familiar messages

New Zealand’s first cybersecurity awareness week (CSAW) has gained support from 34 of New Zealand’s top 100 employers, who are working in concert with online safety organisation Netsafe.

The Ministry for Primary Industries, for example, is providing a “computer hospital” for its staff to bring in digital equipment for security checking.

Central to the initiative in cybersecurity awareness is a website which has a separate identity from the main Netsafe website, to concentrate on security advice. The expense of establishing the site, however, has drained the organisation’s small budget for the first CSAW, so no real-world public events can be mounted, says Netsafe spokesman Martin Cocker.

Instead the organisation is concentrating on promotion through the website and social media. It acknowledges that the cybersecurity message is complex and multifaceted, and has settled on four high-level messages:

  • Use strong passwords – an application accessible from the website takes a candidate password and calculates how long it would take to crack using ordinary PC resources;
  • Back up data frequently;
  • Keep operating system and other software up-to-date, particularly the software used commonly such as Java, Flash and readers for particular file formats such as .pdf. Also use and regularly update antivirus software.
  • Secure wireless connections by using strong (WPA2) encryption, protected with a strong passphrase. Change the default router login from the out-of-the-box login and protect access to the router with a strong password.

The website material also cautions against using public WiFi services for buying or banking online or sending “sensitive” emails.

The week was formally opened by ICT Minister Amy Adams on Monday. Government, she suggests, has done its part by formulating a cybersecurity strategy and establishing a cybersecurity centre.

Priorities under the strategy are “to increase awareness and online security, protect government systems and information, and strengthen incident response and planning”.

“The centre has three main initial functions, Adams says: “to provide advice and support to help develop secure network; to detect and respond to sophisticated cyber threats and to coordinate and assist operational responses to major cyber events of national importance.”

Reports on activities for the week are on the Netsafe Facebook group.

The first NZ CSAW coincides with the longer-established Australian equivalent, which has been running since 2008. The summary of security precautions on its site runs to 10 items, including warnings such as: “only download apps from reputable publishers and read all permission requests” and. “regularly check your privacy settings on social networking sites.”

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