A far-sighted RNZ article in March 2021 suggested that there is good protection from hacking at central government level, though local councils, DHBs and medium scale businesses are at greater risk. As Waikato DHB now recovers from Aotearoa New Zealand's biggest-ever cyber attack, we suggest all councils and their staff become familiar with CERT NZ, our official first port-of-call for cybersecurity prevention and response.

The crippling of Waikato DHB over the past few weeks has been described as the biggest-ever cyber attack on a New Zealand organisation. With its IT system offline at Waikato, Thames, Te Kuiti, Taumarunui and Tokoroa hospitals for two weeks, pen and paper have come into their own. The DHB has been forced to cancel hundreds of operations and outpatient appointments as well as front to patients and staff whose personal data has been hacked and exposed. 

This latest incident follows major attacks on NZX. the New Zealand stock exchange last year, and on The Reserve Bank in January 2021. Potential cyber attacks and crime are an ongoing fact of life for any organisation with an online presence.

To improve cybersecurity in Aotearoa New Zealand, CERT NZ was set up in 2016 and operates under the umbrella of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). CERT stands for Computer Emergency Response Team.

CERT NZ collaborates with its key partners the Department of Internal Affairs, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), Netsafe and the New Zealand Police, in order to prevent and respond to cyber attacks and cyber crime in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors.

CERT NZ provides a form where anyone can report an incident at the top right of its homepage. Users can also access guides on a variety of topics e.g. 'enabling staff to work remotely', 'accepting payments online', and 'protect your website'. Regular news updates on the latest threats and how you can avoid them appear on their website as well as their Facebook and Twitter pages. CERT NZ offers three versions of their website accessible from a drop-down menu at top right of its website; one for individuals, one for businesses, and one for IT specialists.

We suggest all councils talk to their own IT specialists about how they can improve their cybersecurity, as well as encourage their staff to educate themselves in this area by checking out the guides on CERT NZ's website