New Zealand, Australia sign deal to better combat scams and spam in both countries

An illustration of online security
Kiwis have lost a reported $3.7 million from January to March. Photo credit: Getty Images

Communications regulators in Aotearoa and Australia have signed an agreement to enhance efforts to combat online scams and spam in both countries.

Te Tari Taiwhenua Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in an attempt to increase information sharing as well as raising compliance with existing laws.

Paul James, the secretary for Internal Affairs, said the new agreement lifts the already close cooperation between New Zealand and Australia to a new level.

"Phishing campaigns and malware delivered through spam continues to be an increasing challenge globally - working collaboratively with other international jurisdictions is a key way to tackle this issue and protect New Zealanders," he said.

"Enabling the agencies to share intelligence, techniques and tools for combating spam, as well as sharing information on phishing and malware delivered through spam demonstrates the close working relationship between the two regulators."

CERT NZ, the Government's cybersecurity agency, reported last month that Kiwis lost $3.7 million in the first quarter of the year.

The agency said cryptocurrency scams were increasing, but phishing and credential harvesting made up nearly 60 percent of all reports.

"Phishing is an incident type that has been around for decades but has evolved over that time. Attackers change their tactics to reflect current events and use social engineering triggers, like urgency, fear and opportunity," CERT NZ director Rob Pope said at the time.

"Phishing is a major concern as it's simple to do, from a technical perspective, and it's a gateway to other kinds of incidents."

ACMA Chair Nerida O'Loughlin said Australia and New Zealand have been long-term partners in the cybersecurity space and share many of the same challenges when it comes to reducing spam and SMS scams.

"Just about everyone with a mobile phone or email address will understand the frustration that comes from unwanted spam and scams," she said.

"The recent 'FluBot' malware scam affected both Australians and New Zealanders, and information sharing with our New Zealand counterparts has aided the ACMA's spam and scam work."

Both Aotearoa and Australia are actively working with key international partners to look for mutually beneficial ways to cooperate and are core members of the Unsolicited Communications Enforcement Network, a global network of regulators and key stakeholders dedicated to tackling unsolicited communications, DIA said.

Kiwis should report all scam activities to the cybersecurity agency, Pope said.

"Reporting phishing attempts to CERT NZ helps all New Zealanders because the sooner we learn of them, the sooner we can work with providers to take down phoney websites and stop others from potentially falling victim to a scam."