Identity theft, e-fraud top Australian security concerns: Unisys

Data loss also more of an issue than terrorist attacks

Financial fraud, identity theft and environmental disasters lean more heavily on Australians’ minds than national security threats, according to a Unisys report.

The biannual Unisys Security Index report, conducted in February 2011 by Newspoll, surveyed 1200 people what security risks they were concerned about compared to 10 years ago in the wake of the September 11 World Trade Centre attacks.

76 per cent of those surveyed said they were worried about credit card data being stolen, while 66 per cent cited environmental disasters as a threat. Companies losing personal details came in at 59 per cent while 56 per cent mentioned cyber attacks on national computer networks.

Only about half of those surveyed were concerned about attacks such as suicide bomb threats.

Unisys Asia Pacific security program director, John Kendall, told Computerworld Australia that while the concerns had not greatly changed since the last report in November, high profile events such as the Vodafone data breach in January 2011 and more recently, the Sony Playstation Network hack which affected 77 million customers worldwide, meant people were thinking about the amount of financial transactions they were conducting online.

“It will be interesting to see what happens in the wake of the Bin Laden event, and whether people will have an increased concern on some of the issues like suicide bombs and hijackings," he said.

"Otherwise, in the areas of personal data theft and environmental disaster, it is hard to see that going down significantly over the next six months.”

The latest index, for the first half of 2011, found that Australians were slightly less concerned than they were in November 2010, with the index falling four points to 111 out of 300, which indicated a reasonable level of comfort regarding security overall.

The greatest decline occurred in the area of internet security, where the index score fell by eight points to 103 out of 300, largely driven by a five per cent point fall in concern about computer security in relation to viruses and unsolicited emails.

The index, which started in 2006, was conducted in 12 different countries this year including Hong Kong, New Zealand, USA, Belgium, Spain, the UK, Australia, Italy and the Netherlands.

Turning to Privacy Awareness Week, Kendall said the company would support any federal government moves in Australia for companies to have mandatory disclosure if data breaches occurred.

“Clearly, if there is a breach of data and it is not immediately disclosed, the potential for damage increases quite a bit," he said.

"Most companies would bite the bullet right away rather than try to cover it up.”

In 2008, the vendor sent a submission to the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) as part of the commission's review of the Australian Privacy Act 1988.

In August last year, the ALRC launched the results of its review in a report titled, For Your Information: Australian Privacy Law and Practice, which recommended a rewrite of the nation's 20-year-old privacy laws to keep pace with the information age.

Got a security tip-off? Contact Hamish Barwick at hamish_barwick at idg.com.au

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

Tags identity theftonline fraudUnisys John Kendalle-fraudsecurityfraudUnisys Security Indexunisys

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