HOME Technology Dec 2010
Limiting vulnerability
On-line protection essential


“We accept cybercrime because of a 'learned helplessness', it’s like getting ripped off at a garage — if you don't know enough about cars, you don't argue with the mechanic,” psychology professor Joseph LaBrie.


New Zealanders appear more concerned about protecting their social networking identity than securing their mobile devices, leaving them wide open to cybercrime and identity theft.


The latest Unisys Security Index claims 59 percent leave their mobiles phones, PDAs or smartphones vulnerable by failing to regularly change passwords or personal identification numbers (PIN). 


Brett Hodgson, managing director, Unisys New Zealand says if phone numbers, addresses, birthdays and even bank account numbers on mobile phones fall into the wrong hands they can be used to re-create your identity.


He says there’s often a lag between adopting new technology and securing it. “First we embrace it, then we become aware of the potential risks, and only then do we make the effort to secure it in order to better protect ourselves.”


He likened the slowness in protecting phones to failing to adopt antivirus and spam protection when email was first introduced, and more recently the reluctance to protect private information while social networking.


Reluctance to report

The Statistics New Zealand three yearly Household use of Information and Technology Survey, released earlier this year, claims a reduction from 17 - 13 percent in the number of home internet users reporting a loss of data, time, or other damage as a result of a virus. Only 2 percent reported incidents of internet fraud over the past three years.

That’s not the message of Symantec’s latest Cybercrime Report, ‘The Human Impact’, which reveals two thirds of internet users globally have fallen victim to cybercrimes ranging from computer viruses to credit card fraud and online identity theft

The creator of the Norton suite of products says China (83%), Brazil and India (76%) and America (73%) have the highest incidence of fraud but New Zealand is only a few points behind with 70 percent having been victims of cybercrime.

The report says victim reactions range from anger and annoyance to feeling cheated, and in many cases blaming themselves for being attacked. Most do not expect cybercriminals will be bought to justice and are therefore reluctant to take action.

“We accept cybercrime because of a 'learned helplessness', it’s like getting ripped off at a garage — if you don't know enough about cars, you don't argue with the mechanic. People just accept a situation, even if it feels bad,” said Joseph LaBrie, a psychology professor at Loyola Marymount University.

Security updates essential

Symantec says only 59 percent of New Zealand adults said they would change their online behaviour if they became a victim of cybercrime and only 45 percent would report that crime to the police.

While it can take an average of 28 days to resolve cybercrime, Symantec says reporting these events is critical and failing to report even a small loss, may help criminals stay under the radar.

All the major security companies that monitor PCs for spam, scams, viruses and other net nasties update their suites annually, in the hugely competitive process of trying to keep ahead of malware threats.

Trend Micro says it encounters around 220,000 malware examples a day and claims the average malware can circulate for between 15 minutes and three days before being identified and isolated.

Chipmaker Intel which acquired security software maker McAfee for $10.79 billion in August, says security is now a fundamental component of online computing and will be demanded as part of all computing experiences in the future.


Chillisoft New Zealand chief executive Geoff Cossey says while the social networking space implies some sort of legitimacy about contacts made, online ‘friends’ shouldn’t be trusted any more than a stranger knocking at the door.

While you might trust the individuals, the links and applications shared can contain embedded code. “Vigilance is required and while its getting more complicated the same rules apply; make sure your security software is up to date and patches are applied.”


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