NZ Fry Up: Tokelau and Kiribati join the fibre broadband party; Ransomware: to pay or not to pay?

New Zealand IT, tech, and telco news and views from our editor in Auckland.

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Tokelau and Kiribati join the fibre broadband party

Southern Cross Cables’ new replacement submarine cable Southern Cross Next (SX Next)—connecting New Zealand to Australia and the US with branches to Fiji, Tokelau, and Kiribati—may or may not have landed at Takapuna Beach in Auckland. It was supposed to get here on Tuesday, but the weather got in the way. The company assures us, however, that whatever the date of arrival on shore, the cable will go live in April 2022.

For the cable geeks among you, some interesting SX Next stats:

  • It will carry an additional 72 terabits of data, resulting in almost a 100% increase in New Zealand’s international capacity.
  • It will connect 12 cable stations, connect eight key data-centre hubs, and span eight time zones on its 13,000km route.
  • There will be 45,000km of cable—that’s enough to traverse the length of New Zealand more than 28 times.
  • Southern Cross Cables (a company in which local telco Spark has a 40% shareholding) is investing $350 million in the cable.

By 2030, SX Next is expected to replace the existing Southern Cross Cable, which first went live a couple of decades ago. Which means, unless another cable lands in the next 10 years, New Zealand will continue to be connected to three international cables.

southern cross network Southern Cross Cable Network

The blue lines indicate the current Southern Cross trans-Pacific telecommunications cable; the green lines indicate the new, higher-capacity SX Next cable that will evebntually replace it. 

Most New Zealanders won’t notice a huge difference to their service when SX Next goes live, but it will be a step change for Tokelau and Kiribati, which until now have relied on satellite for internet access.

As Tokelau is a New Zealand dependency, the New Zealand government, via the New Zealand Aid Programme, has contributed $23.7 million to connecting its three atolls to the submarine cable, which is expected to land in Tokelau in August 2021. If you are curious about what that looks like, the administrator of Tokelau’s Facebook page has a couple of photos. The page has 2,524 followers—more than the population of Tokelau, which is fewer than 1,500 people. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (which administers the aid fund) says that cable will provide Tokelauans with low-cost, high-performance internet that will enable better digital services for areas such as education and health.

The ministry didn’t say this, but it’s probably also quite useful to connect an island nation that is strategically located between Hawaii and New Zealand.

How will the new trans-Pacific cable be commemorated?

We don’t know if Tokelau is planning to commemorate the SX Next cable going live, but it’s a sure bet that New Zealand won’t be planning a party. How times have changed, as artist Bronwyn Holloway-Smith reminded those at the ceremony to mark the eventual landing of the SX Next cable this week.

Holloway-Smith has spent the last few years creating and unearthing art associated with the Southern Cross Cable. She says that in the early 1960s, when New Zealand’s first international cable Compac, carrying only voice and connecting to Australia and Canada, was itself connected to Contat, a cable between Canada and the UK, an official ceremony was held at the Wellington Town Hall. The highlight being a phone call between then Prime Minister Keith Holyoake and the Queen. In addition, two commemorative stamps issued, film and publications produced, and a ceramic mural Te Ika-a-Maui created by artist E. Mervyn Taylor. Now that is how to celebrate nation-building infrastructure!

Ransomware: to pay or not to pay?

International cables can help combat the ‘tyranny of distance’, but with the good comes the bad. And let’s all hope Tokelau is prepared from a cybersecurity perspective. Global IT association and learning community ISACA has provided a list of 10 steps for New Zealand companies to consider to them help prepare for, and prevent, ransomware attacks. They are:

  1. Understand risk profiles.
  2. Realise data responsibilities, as in documenting who is responsible for what data.
  3. Test for incoming phishing attacks.
  4. Assess all cybersecurity roles on a regular, event-controlled basis.
  5. Evaluate patches on a timely basis.
  6. Perform regular policy reviews.
  7. Leverage threat intelligence appropriately.
  8. Protect user devices.
  9. Communicate clearly with executive and employees.
  10. Comprehend organisational cybersecurity maturity.

Meanwhile, ISACA senior director of emerging technology and innovation Dustin Brewer says local CISOs will be interested to learn about a survey of its members following the Colonial Pipeline attack in the US, given recent attacks here, such as that suffered by the Waikato District Health Board.

The survey found only 22% say a critical infrastructure organisation should pay the ransom if attacked, and four out of five respondents don’t think their organisation would pay. Meanwhile, 84% of respondents believe ransomware attacks will become even more prevalent in the next six months.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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