SecurityBrief New Zealand - Technology news for CISOs & cybersecurity decision-makers
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Cybercrime reports drop in NZ, but threats persist
Thu, 21st Mar 2024

The number of reported cybercrime incidents to CERT NZ (Computer Emergency Response Team New Zealand) has decreased in 2023, but the authority has warned that it does not suggest a halt in cyber criminal activities. There seems to be a shift in strategies with more sophisticated methods being deployed by these criminals.

Over the last three months of 2023, New Zealanders lost $3.6 million to cybercrime, which, despite marking a 24% decrease from the previous quarter, indicates that cyber threats persist. The authorities also flagged a notable increase in phone scam calls targeting Chinese immigrants, thereby suggesting an alarming rise in unreported calls that potentially tricked individuals.

Rob Pope, Director of CERT NZ, underlined the fact that a dip in numbers doesn't equate to a decline in criminal intent. As stated by Pope, "Phishing, whether it's via email, text message or phone call, remains the biggest category of all cyber incidents, and one we see on a daily basis." Knowing that New Zealanders are being caught out by increasingly sophisticated campaigns, the CERT NZ team continues to handle hundreds of phishing indicators every week, he added.

Worryingly, cyber criminals have evolved to employ 'recovery room scams', targeting those who have already been subjected to monetary loss. Operating under the guise of offering assistance, they rob these individuals of even more money. Pope revealed, "While the lower numbers for 2023 in total may seem like a good thing, we know that underreporting is still happening. There are also individuals suffering from large financial losses to these criminals as well as numerous businesses being targeted with ransomware and email harvesting."

While the end of 2023 saw 1,881 incident reports, marking a decrease of 12% from the previous quarter, and a total loss of $3.6 million, a 24% decrease from Q2, the decrease in reports was witnessed almost across all categories. Fraud and scam reports, which are usually correlated with higher financial losses, went down by 22% from the previous quarter. However, there was a significant rise recorded in scam calls targeting vulnerable individuals.

In 2023, a total of 7,935 reports was received, approximately 3% lesser than 2022, resulting in an overall direct financial loss of $18.3 million, which is roughly the average amount over the last six years. The figures also revealed that scams and fraud accounted for almost $15.7 million (86% of the overall direct financial loss) of the financial loss, with investment scams being the largest sub-category amounting to $4.6 million in losses.

CERT NZ, as part of its initiative to increase cyber security awareness, launched a new website, 'Own Your Online'. This website aims to make cyber security advice easily accessible for individual New Zealanders and local businesses, and recorded nearly 48,000 unique visits in just two months following its launch.

Keeping track of evolving tactics of cyber criminals, CERT implores New Zealanders to remain vigilant. "Some of the wider, catch-all phishing campaigns we are seeing will undoubtedly result in more targeted attacks in the future. Because of this, CERT NZ urges New Zealanders to remain vigilant for incidents," warns Pope.