Kiwis urged to smarten up online to combat threat of cyber attacks

New Zealanders are being urged to smarten up online to defend themselves against the growing threat of cyber attacks this Cyber Smart Week.

In order to avoid being the next target, businesses are taking extra precautions.

"The goal is to simulate a real-world attack on a business," says SEQA Information Security managing director Mark Keegan.

SEQA does that over the phone and in person. They're hired to find gaps in a business' defence in order to protect them.

"We ring someone up and try and encourage them to give over some personal information like a password.

"Tailgating someone up a stairwell, through a door, can we drop a USB key in an environment.

"We're professional ethical hackers," Keegan says.

These services are becoming more sought after as cyber awareness grows. The Waikato District Health Board, Metservice and the NZX are among many disrupted recently by malicious activity.

"What we've seen over the last few years is increasing volumes, increasing sophistication by these cybercriminal and organised crime groups all directed at fleecing the public and businesses," says Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) NZ director Rob Pope.

It's cost New Zealanders $60 million since 2017 and it's not just businesses at risk.

"The majority of these issues could've been avoided by following four simple steps," Pope says.

CERT NZ is urging people to better protect themselves online this Cyber Smart Week. People should update apps and devices, upgrade to two-factor identification, tighten privacy settings on social media and have longer and more complex passwords.