The countries behind cyber attacks trying to hack New Zealand's state secrets as criminal hacker numbers soar

The spy agency is worried about the increasing skill of cyber criminals attempting to steal Government secrets and your private information.

The Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) was called in to help with hundreds of major cyber incidents this year, which it says are becoming more sophisticated.

Almost everything we do is online these days, and crime is no different.

"Cyber crime is now a bigger industry than the drug trade, it is enormous," says RedShield co-founder Sam Pickles.

Money to be made from hacking and cyber attacks have seen them become quite the criminal career path.

"It's moved from kids having fun, vandalism and notoriety, to organised crime and big business," Pickles says.

The country's spy agency - the GCSB - is all too aware of the threat they pose.

"We are seeing an increase in sophisticated actors, and the difference between a state-sponsored actor and a criminal actor is getting less, and less stark," says GCSB Director-General Andrew Hampton.

The GCSB was called in to help with 352 major cyber incidents this year - a third of those were launched by foreign states, like China, Russia and Korea, trying to obtain our state secrets and commercially sensitive information.

That would typically be of most concern for our spies, but not anymore.

"It's not just the state-sponsored actors that we're concerned about, increasingly sophisticated criminal actors seem to have similar capabilities that were previously only available to states," Hampton says.

Cyber security experts say this is information warfare.

So is New Zealand in the fight, and launching state-sponsored attacks of its own?

"I don't really think there's anything to be gained from offensive cyber operations, and I really don't think that's a focus for the New Zealand government," Pickles explained.

Hampton says one of GCSB's roles is to gather intelligence under priorities set by the Government.

Curbing cyber crime - state-sponsored or not - is crucial, because it's costing us; 2600 incidents were reported to the computer emergency response team in the three months to September.

Victims lost $6.4 million as a result.

"These are not insignificant amounts and in a time like now when New Zealand is struggling to actually maintain its economic equilibrium, even small amounts of money do make a difference," Rob Pope, Cert NZ director, told Newshub.

For intelligence officials to make a difference, they'll need to keep up with complex cyber criminals.