The average Kiwi is a “sitting duck” when it comes to data security – and it is only a question of time before hackers exploit security loopholes that will see thousands of logins and passwords stolen.
Hence why a New Zealand company has developed a new way of protecting Kiwi consumers from password hackers.
The CEO of NZ technology firm Optimizer HQ Manas Kumar says most Kiwis need to urgently review their data security practices, as stolen personal information is often used for cybercrime.
“We all have about 10 to 12 logins and passwords that we use for daily activities at work and home, for example, internet banking, email systems, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, the Wi-Fi router at home, the shared drive at work," he says.
"What happens is that as humans, we have limited capacity for memory, so often these passwords are variations of the same combination of dates and numbers, your birthday, for example, or the name of a favourite pet.”
“It makes sense, of course, to create passwords that are easy to remember, but guess what?
"If a password is easy to remember, it’s also easy to hack, and you run the risk of losing your entire life if a hacker gets their hands on your most personal information."
Kumar says there is rising concern globally about the safety of personal information following major breaches of security on websites such as LinkedIn, which was hacked in June resulting in the loss of 6.5m user passwords.
“What happened with the LinkedIn security breach was that within a very short amount of time, people started finding that their Gmail, Facebook and Twitter accounts were also hacked, because they use the same password across all these sites," he says.
It was with those cautionary tales in mind that Optimizer HQ developed Locker, a cross-platform password management system that can be used across Windows, Mac and Linux.
The application uses military-grade encryption to store passwords, and requires a secure key as well as the app, which is free to download upon purchase of the key, to access user passwords.
Kumar says many New Zealanders create passwords and list them all on one spreadsheet on a shared drive but all a hacker has to do is get their hands on that spreadsheet and suddenly there’s a major security breach that can cost thousands to clean up.
With Locker HQ Kumar has created a two-step system that he says buys his customers peace of mind.
“People can purchase a USB key, where they can store all their passwords and sensitive information, then plug the key into their computer to access them," he says.
"You need both the key and the app for the system to work however.
"We’ve created a special ‘enterprise’ version which has the added functionality of allowing you to remotely erase or reset all passwords, and even instruct the app to shut down if your laptop is stolen.”
He says there is a danger that New Zealanders could become complacent about security attacks as previously we have not been so vulnerable to them.
“But if you take Australia as an example, about three years ago, Australia was not even in the top 20 ‘most phished’ countries in the world," Kumar says.
"Today, Australia is the no 3 target globally for password hacking and email scams, and that’s all due to a major boom in e-commerce sites that started seeing more people and businesses making transactions online.”
“The exact same thing is happening in NZ, so in a few short years, we are going to be a target for those online scammers, so we need to start taking precautions now to protect our personal safety and private data."
Are Kiwi businesses complacent when it comes to security? Tell us your thoughts below