More cybersecurity graduates needed to take on crime worth more than the drug trade | #emailsecurity | #phishing | #ransomware


Underground companies for cyber crime are set up like legitimate firms, said University of Waikato’s Dr Vimal Kumar, even with HR and finance departments.

Cyber crime is now more lucrative globally than the drug trade, but New Zealand’s short on cybersecurity experts to combat it.

New Zealand incidents caused a financial loss of $16.9 million in 2020, according to figures from the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), which had 7809 incident reports that year.

We’ve had high-profile attacks such as one which sent Waikato DHB back to pen and paper, and the Government has joined international condemnation of China’s state-sponsored cyberattacks.

Yet we need hundreds more cybersecurity graduates – “as many as we can get”, said Dr Vimal Kumar, who leads the University of Waikato’s cybersecurity lab.

* 350 cyber attacks on NZ in last year, a third by state-sponsored exploitation groups
* Private Israeli spyware used to hack cellphones of journalists, activists worldwide
* Russia-based ransomware gang offline but cause not clear
* DHB attackers likely to threaten to release patient health records, says expert

Companies seem to be competing for workers, he said.

Many employers were at the university’s Cyber Security Challenge on Saturday, which aims to encourage people into the area and attracted about 150 budding cyber sleuths.

Christel Yardley/Stuff

Globally, cyber crime is worth more than the drug trade, said Dr Deane Searle, NZ Police’s acting Waikato district manager of intelligence.

ICT security specialists are on New Zealand’s long term skill shortage list for jobs with a “sustained and ongoing shortage of highly skilled workers”.

And organised crime groups are turning to cyber crime, NZ Police’s acting Waikato district manager of intelligence Dr Dean Searle said.

Globally, cyber crime is worth more than the drug trade, he said.

Kumar, a senior lecturer in computer science, said cyber criminals were becoming more and more sophisticated.

They set up underground organisations like legitimate ones, down to having human resources and finance departments, he said.

Christel Yardley/Stuff

A series of high-profile attacks has put cybersecurity under the spotlight, said Dr Vimal Kumar, who leads the University of Waikato’s cybersecurity lab.

Keeping ahead of them will require constant vigilance, Searle said – as soon as a wall is built, people will figure out a way under or around it.

With increasingly online lives, cyber crime can affect everything from grandparents using email, security cameras connected to the internet, and online purchases, he said.

We saw Waikato DHB cancer and other treatments affected after a ransomware attack, he said, and other potential examples include going to the airport and finding a plane ticket had disappeared from the system.


About 150 budding cyber sleuths from around New Zealand at the University of Waikato’s eighth Cyber Security Challenge to test their skills. The university hopes to encourage more people into the area.

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