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Natural disasters, card fraud Kiwis’ top security concerns

08 Jul 2020

New research from Unisys Corporation reveals that the top three security concerns are natural disasters, e.g. flood, hurricanes, bushfires or epidemics (47% of New Zealanders seriously concerned about this issue), bankcard fraud (44%) and identity theft (43%), according to the new 2020 Unisys Security Index.

False sense of security: Only one in five (22%) Kiwis concerned about risk of a security breach while working from home (WFH), despite increasing cyber attacks

Despite data theft issues of bankcard fraud and identity theft ranking among the top concerns, the New Zealand public’s concern for the cybersecurity issues that contribute to such theft has decreased – 40% of New Zealanders are concerned about computer viruses and hacking, down from 48% in 2019, and 35% are concerned about online transactions, down from 39% a year ago. 

In addition, when assessing the concerns arising from the global pandemic only 22% of Kiwis were concerned about the risk of a security breach while working remotely, and 26% were concerned about the risk of being scammed.

“Consumers appear to be blasé about the dangers of being online – or simply distracted by their higher concern about national infrastructure and family well-being. This is a critical issue for organisations that underwent a rapid transformation to move to WFH models due to the pandemic. Meanwhile cyber-attacks in New Zealand are increasing – up 38% during 20193 even before the COVID-19 scams started,” says Unisys Asia Pacific security services director Ashwin Pal.

“Understandably, people were more concerned about their ability to access health services should they or their family require them – and likely assumed their employer would take care of securing data and systems in the ‘new normal’ environment. However, for many organisations, the first challenge was simply enabling their teams to work remotely.

“People are the weakest link in security. Shadow IT grows with every unauthorised app downloaded, even if well-intentioned for remote collaboration - it might not be covered by the security rigour deployed across the rest of the organisation. Employers need to ensure their people have secure direct access to applications, are trained to identify and avoid malicious scams and phishing attacks designed to exploit the fears and distractions created by the pandemic, and can quickly isolate devices or parts of the network to minimise the extent of a breach – because breaches are inevitable,”

Top security concerns change in 2020: return to normality

The longest-running snapshot of consumer security concerns conducted globally, the Unisys Security Index measures concerns of consumers on issues related to national, personal, financial and internet security.

The overall measure of security concerns of the New Zealand public is 136 out of 300, the third-lowest of the 15 countries surveyed. 

It has returned to recent normal levels, down from 143 recorded immediately after the Christchurch attacks in 2019.

In 2020, the top three security concerns are natural disasters, e.g. flood, hurricanes, bushfires or epidemics (47% of New Zealanders seriously concerned about this issue), bankcard fraud (44%) and identity theft (43%). 

The top security concerns have changed over the last 12 months. After the Christchurch attacks, concern about national security in relation to war or terrorism had jumped to the top of the list, but in 2020 it has returned to its previous position as the second-lowest of the eight issues tracked.

New Zealand women are more vigilant than their male counterparts about the impact of COVID-19

In 2020, New Zealand women are more concerned about most types of security issues that are used to calculate the index, with a Unisys Security Index of 142 for women compared to 130 for men – 9% higher. 

In particular, women are significantly more concerned about natural disasters, ability to meet financial obligations and their personal safety.

The longest-running snapshot of consumer security concerns conducted globally, the Unisys Security Index asked New Zealanders to assess their level of concern about how global health crises, such as the outbreak of the COVID-19 impacted the economic stability of New Zealand, their job security, their financial security, their family’s physical health, and New Zealand’s health infrastructure.

Overall, in the COVID-19 environment, New Zealanders were more concerned about the stability of the nation’s economy, health infrastructure and their family’s well being than their personal health or data security. 

However, women expressed significantly higher levels of concern for most areas and in particular the stability of New Zealand’s health infrastructure (61% of women seriously concerned vs 40% of men), the nation’s economic stability (63% of women vs 48% of men), family health (55% of women vs 41% of men) and financial security (47% of women vs 35% of men).

Unisys Asia Pacific commercial and financial sector vice president Andrew Whelan provides one explanation, “These findings indicate that the pandemic is causing women more stress than men, which is likely to be a reflection of their personal experience given the overrepresentation of women in frontline occupations such as healthcare – with nine in 10 nurses female."

Of course, women traditionally are expected to shoulder the burden of emotional labour. Also being more than six times as likely to be a stay at home parent, it is no surprise that they bear the onus of concern for the health and well-being of their families.