Kiwis defrauded more than $8m in cyber attacks

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Kiwis reported financial losses of $8.2 million from cyber crime for the first half of 2019 – more than $3m higher than the same period last year, according to a security firm.

CERT NZ's latest quarterly report, covering the period from April 1 to June 30, showed $6.5m was reported in financial losses in Q2, up from the $1.7m lost in Q1.

Of the 1197 incidents reported to the organisation during Q2, 21 per cent of those resulted in some type of loss.

Reported incidents for the first half of the year stand at 2189 – more than the 1242 incidents reported in Q1 and Q2 during 2018.

The second quarter saw a 41 per cent increase in scam and fraud reports from the previous quarter, making up 458 of the 1197 reported incidents – the most of any other category.

Of the 458 scam and fraud reports, 223 of them involved extortion and blackmail scams.

The report highlighted a 38 per cent increase in ransomware attacks from the previous quarter.

Ransomware – a type of malicious software that can get into a computer system and infect it – encrypts files so they can't be read or accessed, and demands a payment to unlock them. The attacks are mainly targeted at businesses through email attachments or out-of-date software vulnerabilities.

"It's evident that cyber incidents can result in financial loss, however losing money is not the only impact businesses and individuals experience. Cyber incidents can also result in other types of loss like data, reputational and operational," CERT NZ director Rob Pope said.

"Although there are some reports of financial loss, what we see from ransomware attacks are businesses reporting losses like customer information and operational capacity.

"Recovery from a ransomware attack can also be incredibly time consuming, affecting a business's ability to carry out their usual services, and can damage their reputation."

The good news for businesses, Pope said, is that the risk of these attacks can be easily mitigated with a few simple steps; updating your operating systems and software, backing up your files regularly and installing antivirus software.

Pope said the data gathered from CERT's reports is vital to helping them understand the evolving threat landscape.

"The more we know about the types of incidents affecting New Zealanders, the more we can be there to help New Zealanders and their businesses stay safe online," Pope said.