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I see your malware, and I raise you a cyber attack

26 Feb 13

Malware this, cyber attack that, just another normal day in New Zealand's ICT industry according to the Labour Party.

In wake of recent breaches of big industry players such as Microsoft, Apple and Facebook, it appears closer to home no government is safe, with Kiwi officials now targets of advanced sophisticated attacks.

"I believe that New Zealand has a problem with information security," says Clare Curran, Communications and IT spokesperson, Labour, speaking exclusively to Techday this morning.

"New Zealand businesses and public sector organisations are struggling to cope with the demands of a connected-by-default society."

While believing the country to be strong in technological innovation, Curran argues the national spend on educating, training and developing skilled technical personnel is surprisingly low, which creates an in-balance and directly contributes to the fragility and vulnerability of national IT systems.

Cases in point: Novopay and MSD, Immigration and other systems.

"This lack of skilled security professionals affects public, private and academic sectors," Curran argues. "It also impacts on small business systems.

"I have had representations from the IT sector stress this is a national problem which requires national attention."

Increasingly protestors, terrorists and anti-governments groups are using technology to attack the systems they oppose or to highlight their causes.

As with many other forms of attack often the parties most harmed are not those targeted but the little people - it is the users of Government services whose data is essentially at risk.

"We think there is an urgent commitment required to work with industry to establish the need for a Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT)," stresses Curran. "There has been a clear need articulated for a CERT for a long time.

"Currently, New Zealand is the only country in the OECD without one."

Some of the upcoming threats to our industry according to Labour includes rapid service growth from Asian, South American and Indian markets, reputational damage from regular publicised systems compromises and lack of ability by the current government to join the dots.

"We support New Zealand’s Cyber Security Strategy and would ensure it is implemented and strengthened," Curran says. "But we have serious concerns about the gaps in real engagement with industry on cyber security."

Special inquiry:

Curran has recently drawn a private members bill from the ballot, the Electronic Data Safety Bill, which Labour hopes will establish a special inquiry into all the current data breaches.

Accusing the government of dealing with each issue individually and trying to minimise the importance of each breach, Curran demands a widespread investigation across the board.

“The huge data breaches at MSD, ACC and IRD are an information shambles for the government," Curran says. "They are incapable of applying basic security to our private information."

“We know at least 15,000 people have had their privacy breached in the past year alone but the government is doing very little to address the issue."

While a culture of cavalier treatment may have taken root in government departments, Curran believes the confidence of the public has been deeply shaken, if not lost.

"Confidence must be restored and a Special Commission of Inquiry is the only way," she argues. “There are fundamental concerns about IT governance and accountability as well as the wider government attitude to privacy that must be addressed."

Should the government be tougher on security? What can be done to prevent further attacks in the future? Tell us your thoughts below

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