SecurityBrief New Zealand logo
New Zealand's leading source of cybersecurity and cyber-attack news
Story image

GCSB updates NZISM for first time since September 2020

By Zach Thompson
Mon 28 Feb 2022

The New Zealand Information Security Manual (NZISM) has released important information in its latest update, Version 3.5.

The NZISM is a guide used by all New Zealand Government agencies and includes best practices in cyber security. Its last update (v3.4) was released in September 2020.

The Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) explains that the manual is designed to lay out “the clarification of governance requirements, role and authority of the chief and of senior executives, and further clarity on the principal assurance process – the certification and accreditation framework.”

The GCSB adds that this is important because the responsibility of managing risk and security falls to chief executives and heads of government departments and agencies.

This means the clarity around governance, management and security of information and information systems that the NZISM provides is integral to ensuring the people in these roles can do their jobs effectively.

“NZISM is an important contribution, as it provides a technology neutral set of standards that all organisations can adopt to provide a good foundation for cyber security,” KPMG Cyber Security Services partner Philip Whitmore says.

“At over 300 pages, it can appear quite overwhelming at first, but its size is due to the range of guidance within it, and because it’s providing standards for a range of organisations.

“There are a range of organisations focusing on uplifting New Zealand’s cyber resilience. For that to be successful, there needs [to be an] effort from both the public and private sectors.

“The government’s Cyber Security Strategy, along with initiatives like the NZISM and CERT NZ, are all key parts of that,” Whitmore says.

Asked whether the private sector also uses the NZISM, Whitmore says this is rare, primarily due to a lack of awareness about the manual.

“Private sector organisations are aware of frameworks such as the NIST Cybersecurity Framework and ISO 27001/2, along with detailed technical standards such as the CIS Benchmarks.

“But that leaves a large gap between the frameworks and the detailed technical standards, and that’s where NZISM fits in very well.

“It’s not meant to be an all or nothing situation, and private sector organisations should take a risk-based approach to adopting the key elements that are relevant to them,” Whitmore says.

The NZISM has existed in one form or another since the 1990s when it was known as the New Zealand Security of Information Technology (NZSIT) policies.

In 2004, that document became the NZSIT 400 series, superseded by the NZISM in 2010.

In 2014, working within government as well as with the vendor and practitioner communities, a significant rewrite took place to develop what would become the third version of the manual. 

This was intended to give further clarity and up-to-date guidance around new technologies.

“The NZISM‘s controls take into account international information security standards and control catalogues from a range of sources – including international partner agencies, and recognised technical institutions such as NIST, or ISO Standards,” A National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) spokesperson says.

“Our policy team adapts these to be consistent with New Zealand’s legislation, government policy and the wider New Zealand technology context.”

Since its major update in 2014, the manual has been regularly updated to keep pace with rapid changes within the tech space.

Speaking to this process, the spokesperson says, “the NZISM is managed by a specialist team based in the [GCSB’s NCSC].

“It is updated on a regular, ongoing basis as new policy and guidance is developed to address technology change and evolving security risk.

“The timing of a version release is dependent on the scale of work required for each specific change.”

The latest version of the NZISM brings with it changes that will impact New Zealand cyber security going forward.

The areas that have received updates or changes include Chapter 2 (Information Security Services within Government), Chapter 3 (Roles and Responsibilities), Section 5.9 (Vulnerability Disclosure Policy), Section 13.5 (Media and IT Equipment Destruction), and Chapter 17 (Cryptography).

An overview of the updates sees many of the affected areas have changed the wording for clarity and to reflect better the nature of the advice (that it relates to a broader variety of topics within cyber security).

In the case of Chapter 2, the term “Agency Control” has been more accurately defined to specify “Direct” and “Indirect” as the term was deemed too broad.

Similarly, in Chapter 3, previously conflicting advice for CISOs around agency head delegation of the Accreditation Authority has been laid out more clearly.

Chapter 17 has also further defined the term “legacy” to distinguish it from meaning outdated systems, and from the modernised terminology and references that are used throughout the manual.

Below are specific noteworthy changes for each area:

  • Chapter 2

Changes here are up-to-date advice for agencies using cloud services, including agencies responsible for creating cloud adoption strategies and guidance on adopting cloud-native security services.

It also includes an introduction to zero trust concepts and terminology and guidance around approaches for more accuracy around zero trust in future versions of the manual.

Additionally, some information has been moved from the cryptographic section to the Industry Engagement and Outsourcing advice section of this chapter to reflect that its guidance applies to more than just control of cryptographic keys.

Furthermore, a new section has been developed in light of the impending impacts of quantum computing on information security controls, particularly encryption.

This includes guidance around how best to approach integrating post-quantum cryptographic standards, specifically gathering important information about assets such as encrypted documents.

  • Section 5.9

The latest update here is a new expectation for agencies to put into effect a policy that will accept and action system vulnerability reports from members of the public.

This means the agency policy will need to consider the scope of the systems it applies to and the responsible sharing of details once the vulnerabilities have been dealt with.

  • Section 13.5

This section now includes incineration as an acceptable means to destroy media. It also provides advice on how best to undertake this kind of activity.

  • Chapter 17

This chapter includes more in-depth information relating to the topic of cryptography. It has been updated to ensure agencies know what quantum computing could mean for cryptography and how to prepare.

“The policy and guidance in the NZISM reflects a broad range of considerations that have the potential to impact on the integrity and availability of information systems and the confidentiality and privacy of data,” the spokesperson says.

“The development and publication of new material in the NZISM is forward-looking, based on an assessment of emerging risk and our understanding of trends in the New Zealand Government’s use of digital technologies.

“Our updates are developed and reviewed by a team of subject matter experts across the Regulatory and Advisory branch of the NCSC and other relevant specialists across the wider GCSB.

“It is a collective effort, and content developed for the NZISM is often consulted with experts and specialists, in their respective areas of expertise, across the New Zealand public sector and academia.”

The spokesperson adds, “the NZISM is delivered out of the GCSB’s baseline funding as part of our core service delivery to improve New Zealand government information security maturity.”

GCSB director general and Government chief information security officer Andrew Hampton says the safe and secure operation of information systems is essential to New Zealand’s security and economic well-being. 

“These systems are vital for the successful operation of government organisations and underpin public confidence by supporting privacy and security. One of the ways we support secure uptake of the technology platforms needed to drive the government digital transformation is through our information security policy leadership function.

“We provide system-level information, security policy, strategic advice and support across government agencies. One of our key tools for delivering this is the [NZISM].

“Also, we are finding new ways to make the NZISM consumable, through security by design.

"One example of this is the work we did with major cloud service providers to develop templates for the implementation of their cloud products. These templates help increase the baseline security of those products by building core New Zealand Government information security standards into their basic implementation.

“While application of the NZISM is mandatory for core New Zealand Government agencies, we believe the NZISM provides a valuable framework to support information security risk management and decision making across both the public and private sector,” Mr Hampton says.

Public Interest Journalism Fund logo
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.
Related stories
Top stories
Story image
Employment
Tech job moves - Forcepoint, Malwarebytes, SolarWinds & VMware
We round up all job appointments from May 13-20, 2022, in one place to keep you updated with the latest from across the tech industries.
Story image
Migration
Let’s clear the cloud visibility haze with app awareness
Increasingly, organisations are heading for the cloud, initiating new born-in-the-cloud architectures and migrating existing applications via ‘lift and shift’ or refactoring.
Story image
Remote Working
Successful digital transformation in the hybrid work era is about embracing shifting goalposts
As organisations embraced remote working, many discovered they lacked the infrastructure needed to support history’s first global load test of remote work capabilities.
Story image
Vectra AI
Understanding the weight on security leader’s shoulders, and how to shift it
Millions of dollars of government funding and internal budgets are being funnelled into cybersecurity to build resilience against sophisticated threats, indicating how serious this issue has become.
Story image
Digital Transformation
How to modernise legacy apps without compromising security
At a time when digital transformation has become central to business, even the most important applications come with a ‘use-by’ date.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
How to ensure ethical deployment of AI implementations
The increase in automation and machine technology such as AI and machine learning has unlocked a whole new level of scale and service to organisations. 
Story image
Supply chain
Jetstack promotes better security with supply chain toolkit
The web-based resource is designed to help organisations evaluate and plan the crucial steps they need to establish effective software supply chain security.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Managed service providers: effective scoping to avoid costly vendor pitfalls
Managed security services are outsourced services focusing on the security and resilience of business networks.
Story image
Ransomware
Cybersecurity starts with education
In 2021, 80% of Australian organisations responding to the Sophos State of Ransomware study reported being hit by ransomware. 
Story image
Nozomi Networks
Nozomi Networks, Siemens reveal software integration
Nozomi Networks and Siemens have extended their partnership by embedding Nozomi Networks’ software into the Siemens Scalance LPE local processing engine.
Story image
SaaS
Rubrik Security Cloud marks 'next frontier' in cybersecurity
"The next frontier in cybersecurity pairs the investments in infrastructure security with data security giving companies security from the point of data."
Story image
Amazon Web Services / AWS
RedShield leverages AWS to scale cybersecurity services
"Working with AWS gives RedShield the ability to mitigate significant application layer DDoS attacks, helping leaders adopt best practices and security architectures."
Story image
Malware
New vulnerabilities found in Nuspire’s Q1 2022 Threat Report
“Threat actors are quickly adjusting their tactics and these exploits tend to get industry attention, but the threat posed by older and attacks still persists."
Story image
Ivanti
Ivanti and Lookout bring zero trust security to hybrid work
Ivanti and Lookout have joined forces to help organisations accelerate cloud adoption and mature their zero trust security posture in the everywhere workplace.
Story image
Cloud Security
Aqua Security createa unified scanner for cloud native security
“By integrating more cloud native scanning targets into Trivy, such as Kubernetes, we are simplifying cloud native security."
Story image
Cybersecurity
Hard numbers: Why ambiguity in cybersecurity no longer adds up
As cybersecurity costs and risks continue to escalate, CEOs continue to struggle with what their investment in cyber protection buys. Getting rid of ambiguity becomes necessary.
Story image
Cybersecurity
NCSC advisory highlights poor security configurations
The GCSB's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has released a cyber security advisory identifying commonly exploited controls and practices.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Noname Security partners with Netpoleon to target API issues
Specialist API security firm Noname Security has appointed Netpoleon as its distributor in Australia and New Zealand.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
ForgeRock releases Autonomous Access solution powered by AI
ForgeRock has officially introduced ForgeRock Autonomous Access, a new solution that uses AI to prevent identity-based cyber attacks and fraud.
Story image
Microsoft
PwC NZ unveils new Cloud Security Operations Center
PwC New Zealand has unveiled its new Cloud Security Operations Center for the entire Microsoft technology stack.
Story image
Phishing
Google reveals new safety and security measures for users
Google's new measures include automatic two step verification, virtual cards and making it easier to remove contact information on Google Search results.
Darktrace
Threat actors are exploiting weaknesses in interconnected IT/OT ecosystems. Darktrace illuminates your entire business and takes targeted action to stop emerging attacks.
Link image
Story image
Data Protection
Barracuda launches new capabilities for API Protection
"Every business needs this type of critical protection against API vulnerabilities and automated bot attacks," Barracuda says.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
Updates from Google Workspace set to ease hybrid working troubles
Google Workspace has announced a variety of new features which will utilise Google AI capabilities to help make hybrid working situations more efficient and effective.
Story image
Application Security
What are the DDoS attack trend predictions for 2022?
Mitigation and recovery are vital to ensuring brand reputation remains solid in the face of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack and that business growth and innovation can continue.
Story image
Digital Transformation
Physical security systems guide the hybrid workplace to new heights
Organisations are reviewing how data gathered from their physical security systems can optimise, protect and enhance their business operations in unique ways.
Story image
Sift
Sift shares crucial advice for preventing serious ATO breaches
Are you or your business struggling with Account Takeover Fraud (ATO)? One of the latest ebooks from Sift can provide readers with the tools and expertise to help launch them into the new era of account security.
Story image
Ransomware
Alarming surge in Conti Ransomware Group activity - report
A new report has identified a 7.6 per cent increase in the number of vulnerabilities tied to ransomware in Q1 2022.
Story image
SaaS
Absolute Software expands Secure Access product offering
Absolute Software is enhancing its Secure Access product portfolio, enabling minimised risk exposure and optimised user experiences in the hybrid working environment.
Story image
Customer experience
Gartner recognises Okta for abilities in Access Management
Okta has announced it has been recognised as a Customers' Choice for the fourth time in a row in the Gartner Peer Insights "Voice of the Customer" report.
Story image
Phishing
KnowBe4 celebrates reaching 50,000 customers worldwide
KnowBe4 has reached the milestone of 50,000 customers, adding nearly 2,500 in the first quarter of 2022 alone.
Story image
Qualys
Qualys updates Cloud Platform solution with rapid remediation
The new update is designed to enable organisations to fix asset misconfigurations, patch OS and third-party applications, and deploy custom software.
Story image
Cybersecurity
The 'A-B-C' of effective application security
Software applications have been a key tool for businesses for decades, but the way they are designed and operated has changed during the past few years.
Story image
BeyondTrust
BeyondTrust integrates Password Safe solution with SailPoint
BeyondTrust has announced the integration of BeyondTrust Password Safe with SailPoint identity security offerings.
Story image
Cybersecurity
CyberArk launches $30M investment fund to advance security
CyberArk has announced the launch of CyberArk Ventures, a $30 million global investment fund dedicated to advancing the next generation of security disruptors.
Story image
Ransomware
A third of companies paying ransom don’t recover data - report
Veeam's report finds 76% of businesses who are victims of cyberattacks paid the ransom to recover data, but a third were still unable to get their information back.
Story image
Apricorn
Data backup plans inadequate, data still at risk - study
The Apricorn 2022 Global IT Security Survey revealed that while the majority organisations have data backup plans in place, data for many are at risk.
Booster
Booster Innovation Fund. A fund of Kiwi ingenuity – for Kiwi investors.
Link image
Story image
Cybersecurity
A10 Networks finds over 15 million DDoS weapons in 2021
A10 Networks notes that in the 2H 2021 reporting period, its security research team tracked more than 15.4 million Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) weapons.
Story image
SaaS
Maintaining secure systems with expectations of flexible work
Most office workers feel they've proved they can work successfully from home, and as much as employers try, things aren't going back to the way they were anytime soon.
Story image
ChildFund
ChildFund launches new campaign to protect children online
ChildFund says WEB Safe & Wise aims to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse online while also empowering them to become digitally savvy. 
Story image
Ransomware
Ingram Micro Cloud adds Bitdefender solutions to marketplace
Ingram Micro Cloud has announced the expanded availability of Bitdefender solutions on the Ingram Micro Cloud Marketplace.
Story image
Workato
Workato unveils enhancements to enterprise automation platform
"The extra layer of protection with EKM, zero-logging, and hourly key rotation gives customers a lot more visibility and control over more sensitive data."
Story image
Remote Working
How zero trust and SD-WANs can support productive remote working
The way people connect with applications and data has changed, users are remotely accessing resources that could be stored anywhere from a corporate data center to the cloud.