Hundreds of documents briefing new Government ministers on key policies have been released. Herald journalists have been analysing the Briefings to Incoming Ministers (Bims). Here we look at the Cyber Security.


Cyber security threats are increasingly brazen, challenging to identify, and on the rise, according to a ministerial briefing released today.

And Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is singling out North Korea and Russia in warning against the dangers of state-sponsored attacks.

"Some of the issues around Russia have been canvassed and are well known," Ardern said.

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"North Korea have engaged as well and we absolutely denounce the use of those tools to threaten the economic security of other countries.

"It is fair to say that [cyber security incidents are] increasing and it comes at an economic cost ... We are being vigilant. Anyone who engages in cyberattacks and threats like that we stand firmly against."

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Briefings to incoming ministers: The highlights

According to a briefing from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet on cyber security, there were 396 incidents recorded in 2016-17, up from 338 the previous year and 190 the year before that.

Meanwhile CERT NZ, the first port of call for reporting a cyber security problem, recorded 364 incidents in its first three months (April-June 2017), involving direct financial losses of over $730,000.

"New Zealand's experience is not unique - it reflects a serious and growing international problem. Globally, there is growing use of cyber tools by state-sponsored cyber actors to pursue geopolitical advantage," the briefing said.

"This might be aimed at strengthening influence, stealing commercially valuable information, undermining, or embarrassing other states, creating chaos and disruption, retaliating for the actions of other states ... in increasingly bold, brazen, and disruptive ways."

It noted the reported Russian interference in the 2016 US election, compromises of national energy systems in the UK and Ireland, and outages in the Ukraine power grid as a result of cyber incidents last December.

"This 'new normal' is an environment where cyber threat actors take covert action against others that, while it may be an unfriendly and damaging act, often falls short of interpretation as an 'act of force' or 'intervention in a state's domestic affairs'.

"This 'grey area' activity poses an increasing challenge to the ability of governments to deliver security services to their economies and citizens."

Minister responsible for intelligence agencies Andrew Little said countering cyber attacks was a constant test to stay ahead of a technology that is constantly evolving.

He said he was confident in the work by the Government Communications Security Bureau, but more can always be done.

Little also identified Russia and North Korea, saying they "have a pretty strong track record of interfering with state networks so far".

The briefing listed it was essential to properly resource capability to deal with cybercrime, including through police, and the Five Eyes security partnership with Australia, the UK, the US and Canada.