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Massey Uni expert: Secure internet? It's just salesmanship - we're more at risk than ever

14 Nov 2016

A Massey University cybersecurity expert has warned that Kiwis need to shift their mindsets towards security over the latest features, especially when it comes to internet-connected devices and computing.

The Massey University Future NZ Forum on Cybersecurity was held last week. Dr Andrew Colarik, senior lecturer for the Centre for Defence and Security Studies, says the sheer amount of information we share about ourselves and our national security is very vulnerable.

"Everything we do in this country is now so dependent on the free flow of information and the connections that we maintain. Any disruption to that will have huge, cascading effects,” he says.

He believes New Zealand has a cybersecurity infrastructure scaled only for New Zealand's population. A larger one is needed to prevent distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks and data security from a global perspective.

“A large denial-of-service attack could shut down communications to the whole country quite easily. If targeted for competitive or political reasons, there are very few organisations that would be resilient to that sort of attack," he explains.

He also believes that the concept of full security is an illusion, as communications infrastructures are insecure and vulnerable by nature, stating that "There are only measures of security. The notion that the internet is secure is just salesmanship”.

Colarik points out that organisations must be ready for new threats all the time - and the ones that come out on top will be those who can extract information for competitive advantage.

“What happens when an organisation’s own information is used against it? Customer details, costing and pricing structures, and other intellectual properties are all there for the taking if not properly protected.”

Colarik points out that applications such as Pokemon Go highlight the massive amount of information we willingly hand over to providers.

“Pokemon Go! has the right to take all your pictures, all your contacts, basically everything on your phone and send it to the mother company. The company that owns it, their net worth increased by billions – how is that possible if the data isn’t worth something?”

Ultimately, he says that it's not just up to the government or organisations, but a balance between security, user features and data usage.

“This needs to be done at a whole-of-society level. We all need to take responsibility for the level to which we share our personal data, and we need more education and greater discussion about who owns and controls our information. A genuine public/private partnership is essential for ensuring everyone’s prosperity in our digital future.”

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