Friday Fry Up: Would you like malware with that online purchase?, Cool to be SaaS, Fintech and the other ’techs

Friday Fry Up is Computerworld New Zealand’s weekly look at the world of IT.

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Would you like malware with that online purchase?

Today is Black Friday, or Pango Friday for those of us living in Aotearoa New Zealand. Along with Halloween, we have been gifted this festive shopping day—and its companion Cyber Monday—by our friends in the US. Apparently, it is now bigger for retailers than the Boxing Day sales (which we imported from our friends in the UK, probably).

But aside from the temptation to the splurge online, what else do you need to be careful of? Perhaps to remind us, CERT NZ released its latest quarterly report this week. It shows there were 2,610 incidents reported between 1 July and 30 September 2020. The total reported financial loss was at $6.4 million and, while 65% of losses were below $500, there were nine incidents where more than $100,000 was lost.

Here’s the breakdown of reported incidents:

  • Phishing and credential harvesting: 1,064
  • Malware: 886
  • Scams and fraud :423
  • Unauthorised access :112
  • Ransomware: 22
  • Suspicious network traffic: 19
  • Website compromise: 17
  • Denial of service: 8
  • Botnet traffic: 3
  • Generic malware: 1
  • Other: 55

Of course, the cybersecurity story of the year is the rise of DDoS, following the huge disruption caused when the NZX came under attack in August. While only eight DDoS attacks were reported to CERT NZ, the organisation notes that 4,473 reports were received by cyberthreat intelligence provider Shadowserver Foundation. Of those attacks, 96% were volumetric attacks, “where attackers exploit vulnerabilities in networking protocols in order to generate high volumes of traffic. This traffic is directed at the target, either the server or network, to try to overload it and make it inaccessible to users,” CERT says.

And if that wasn’t dreadful enough, research from Netsafe, also out this week, shows that New Zealanders in every age group—but in particular men between 40 and 49 years old—reported being the victim of at least one unwanted digital communication this year. The most likely time was during and/or after the lockdown.

“Categories which attracted the largest numbers of online harm during and/or after lockdown included encouraging people to hurt or kill themselves (65%), sharing intimate images or recordings without permission (65%), sharing violent or sexual content considered indecent or obscene (55%), and offensive comments about religious or political beliefs (54%),” Netsafe reports.

Cool to be SaaS

Back in August, it was becoming evident that despite the COVID-19, the tech sector was doing okay—and parts of it were even thriving. While a Ministry of Building, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) report issued at the time noted that many IT projects were still on hold, the enforced lockdowns were driving greater customer adoption of e-commerce.

Among those benefitting from the push to online are SaaS companies, as noted by Bruce Jarvis, Callaghan Innovation’s group manager of digital. His agency assists more than 700 SaaS companies, and he says it is their fastest-growing customer sector.

“We went into COVID-19 with a strong, innovative digital sector competing well on the world stage, but the pandemic presented major challenges—especially in funding terms. On the flipside, COVID-19 supercharged global demand for digital services, and many of our most innovative companies responded rapidly. Our COVID-19 R&D loan uptake underlined this, with many digital businesses needing the support to speed up their activities to meet demand and seize new opportunities,” he says.

Those IT managers contemplating a pivot to SaaS should note that the median salary, according to TradeMe, for an IT professional is $105,000—that’s almost twice the average New Zealand salary of $62,000.

Fintech and the other ’techs

A feature of the New Zealand tech scene is the number of interest groups that are both cheerleaders and watchdogs. NZ Tech, ITP, TUANZ, NZRise, BioTech NZ, Agritech NZ, AI Forum, and on it goes.

Each contributes something different, but only TIN (Technology Investment Network) puts out a list detailing how much the top 200 tech exporters make in revenue each year. These figures are derived from a combination of survey responses from companies, estimates from companies that don’t return their survey, and stock exchange information. The TIN report has long been a reference document for public and private sector organisations wanting to understand the start-ups and scale-ups in the local scene.

In its 2020 report, TIN notes that combined the TIN200 companies made $12.7 billion in the past year, representing revenue growth of $972 million. Collectively these companies employ 55,000 full time staff and have created 4,000 new jobs in the past year.

TIN provides a lot of context around the numbers, and it has again noted that fintechs are the fastest-growing sector for the fifth consecutive year. “With a five-year [annual growth rate] of 31% and several new company arrivals on the TIN200 in 2020, close attention will no doubt be focused on the NZ fintech sector in 2021 and beyond,” the report says.

Despite this bullish outlook, New Zealand failed to make it into the Global Fintech Ecosystem Report 2020 from the Startup Genome organisation (of which MBIE is listed as a contributor), which came out this week. The report authors view agritech and life sciences as New Zealand’s strengths, although companies like Xero, Pushpay, and Laybuy might beg to differ.

It can be hard to shake a reputation—when Fry Up spoke to a tech founder in the US the other day, he asked if it was true that people in New Zealand are still greatly outnumbered by sheep.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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