Kiwis concerned about govt data breaches - Unisys survey

Survey finds 76 percent of respondents concerned about data breaches at banks and financial institutions

New Zealanders show a high level of concern about loss of their private data by government and the financial industry, according to the latest Unisys Security Index findings.

Overall concern about security matters has decreased compared with last year, the Unisys survey says; New Zealand's index - combining concerns about digital and not-digital security - is 10 points lower, at 134.

But for the first time, people were asked specifically about data breaches; "76 percent of Kiwis are concerned about data breaches at banks and financial institutions compared to only 57 percent concerned about health organisations including hospitals and doctors," says the survey.

Government also ranks high in the fear-of-data-breach stakes, at 63 percent, following a number of well-publicised accidental releases of data from ACC, the Earthquake Commission, the Ministry of Social Development and Inland Revenue.

"That's an alarming level of concern," says Unisys NZ general manager Steve Griffin.

Organisations must protect against internal threats using a combination of security policies, employee education (to make sure they understand how and why to comply with these policies) and technology solutions such as encryption, Griffin says.

However, he acknowledges that setting up security policies is complex.

Unisys has advised the US Department of Defense on advanced encryption techniques, including "bit-splitting", which breaks the data into small slices as well as encrypting it. Locally the bit-splitting technique has been deployed at rental-car company Hertz NZ, to protect customers' credit-card information.

Concern about other people obtaining or using their credit/debit card details was registered by 55 percent of New Zealanders surveyed for the Unisys index.

The decreased level of concern overall reflects in part the public's "general awareness of the work being done and the technology available to increase security," Griffin says. Encryption is "part of the solution", but it must be backed by well-thought-out policies and public education.

Some people still feel zealous security online "is almost at odds with the freedom of the internet," he says.

New Zealand's overall level of security concern puts us halfway down the list of 13 countries surveyed. US, Australian and UK residents show less concern than Kiwis, at 10th, 11th and 12th on the list respectively; lowest is the Netherlands.

A summary of the figures, for NZ and other countries surveyed can be viewed here.

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