Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

New Zealand cyber security fears rising

IT firm says government plans over growing threat may undermine civil liberties.

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

New Zealanders are becoming increasingly concerned about privacy and cyber-security, new research suggests.

One IT industry organisation has sounded alarm bells that the Government's response to the growing cyber-security threat may undermine civil liberties.

Roy Morgan Research yesterday reported huge uptake of new technologies over the past two years with smartphone ownership trebling to 36 per cent of the population over 14 and ownership of tablet computers up fivefold to 25 per cent over the same period.

But New Zealanders were discovering that owning a smart phone, tablet or laptop "can raise tricky issues about privacy and cyber security", Roy Morgan Research chief executive Pip Elliott said.

"And with debate raging over proposed legislation to allow spy agencies and the police to conduct cyber surveillance on New Zealand citizens, these issues are more relevant than ever," she said.

"While there's no doubt that new technologies can make our lives easier in many ways, they also expose us to potential privacy risks. As more New Zealanders adopt these technologies, they're simultaneously becoming more concerned about the accompanying risks."

Roy Morgan reported the proportion of New Zealanders who said they were worried about invasion of their privacy through new technology had increased from 54 per cent to 62 per cent over the past decade, rising four percentage points in the last two years alone.

"With proposed changes to the Telecommunications (Interception Capability) Act meaning that network operators may be obliged to assist police and spy agencies in matters affecting 'national and economic well-being', cyber security issues are currently a hot topic in New Zealand," Ms Elliott said.

Institute of IT Professionals chief executive Paul Matthews said threats to cyber security were a genuine issue, with New Zealand businesses "under attack on a daily basis".

"So consideration about how to respond is completely valid."

However, the institute was not comfortable with some details of the Government's planned overhaul of the GCSB Act initiated after it was revealed the bureau had illegally spied on internet tycoon Kim Dotcom. "What concerns us in terms of suggestions is the concept around warrantless surveillance."

Under the rejigged Act, Section 14 prohibiting interception of New Zealander's communications will only apply to the bureau's foreign intelligence work. The new legislation will make Section 14 not apply when the bureau intercepts New Zealanders' communications while assisting the police or SIS under a warrant or when it is undertaking information assurance or cyber security work.

- NZ Herald

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