The government's Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT NZ) officially opened today to act as a one-stop shop for all New Zealanders and local entities to find information on how to deal with cyber-security issues.
Communications Minister Simon Bridges launched the opening of the unit at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment in Wellington, which will sit at the centre of the nation's cyber-security response, acting as a coordinating entity to identify threats and help users respond to them. The government set aside $22.2 million over a four-year period in last year's budget, and the unit is operational as of today after a 10-month period setting it up.
CERT NZ will act as a go-between for individuals, government agencies and businesses both big and small and will be responsible for monitoring, tracking and advising on cyber security incidents, which rose to 338 in the June 2016 year from 190 in 2015.
Speaking to media after the launch, CERT NZ director Rob Pope said the unit is focused on creating a more coordinated approach to addressing cyber-threats in New Zealand, which has been fragmented in the past.
"From that, we should gain a better understanding of what sorts of cyber events and cyber-security type issues are, over and above what we understand exist today," Pope said. User satisfaction is "really important" for the unit and it will be closely watching where the demand for its services is coming from, he said.
The New Zealand entity differs from other CERTs in other nations by having such a broad remit, however, operations manager Declan Ingram said that's useful for a country of New Zealand's size as the information for IT specialists and less-informed consumers and businesses feeds back into each other.
That information will also loop back into government agencies to help them identify areas that may be of concern to them, he said.
The new website - cert.govt.nz - gives users an avenue to report real or suspected cyber-security issues and provides advice or guidance on how to address that. Users will also be able to have the option to refer to an appropriate agency, such as police, the Department of Internal Affairs or Netsafe.
As the unit's database grows it will analyse the information to create proactive guidance and advice for users.
Industry lobby Internet NZ welcomed the launch of CERT NZ, describing it as a critical piece of security infrastructure for the country.
"Trust on the internet is something we think is very important," chief executive Jordan Carter said in a statement. "We are very pleased to see that a goal of CERT NZ is to improve cyber security in New Zealand by gaining a deeper understanding of the cyber threat landscape, avoiding incidents and reducing the impact of incidents that do happen."