Cyber security 101

Think 1920 New Zealand. The telephone was released as brand new technology, radio and newspapers were the primary forms of communication and the internet was but a speck in a distant computer-based future.

Fast forward 100 years to 2020 and the internet has blown up to immense proportions.  Communication is instant, relationships reach across the globe and huge amounts of personal information are entered into online platforms. Unfortunately, for all the convenience and connection the internet provides, there is a darker flipside. Each internet user leaves a digital footprint, or a record of their online activity. This activity can be accessed by criminals looking to use personal information for their own gain.

Online identity theft is when someone obtains personal information from another person without their consent, often using it for criminal purposes. The New Zealand National Cyber Security Centre recorded 339 cyber-security incidents from 30 th June 2018 until 30th June 2019.

 Email addresses in particular are a target for criminal activity, as they often serve as a base for additional internet connections such as bank accounts, social media and other online services. Protecting yourself from cyber-criminals is incredibly important to ensure your privacy,  money and personal details stay safe.


To reduce the chances of having your identity stolen online, the recommended cyber-security basics to follow are:

  • Avoid giving out too much personal information, whether on social media or by email. 
  • Be suspicious of attachments sent with emails from someone you do not know.
  • Be extra wary of emails claiming to be time sensitive, important or urging you to take immediate action.
  • Always update your phone and computer when new versions are available – these updates are often to fix security issues.
  • Choose unique passwords for your online accounts — avoid using the same password for every account you have, otherwise, if someone gets access to one — they get access to all.
  • Do not use passwords comprised of easily accessible information like the name of a pet or family member.
  • Consider using a password manager to help keep them manageable and secure. You can find this software on Google; some password managers are free and some are subscription based. and are two that have been used by Farmlands staff.
  • Turn on 'multifactor authentication' for your online accounts (if they support them). This means that you will have to verify yourself twice or more when attempting to log into a site. An example of this could be answering a security or account recovery question that you have pre-set.
  • Make sure that answers to your account recovery questions are hard to guess. Your answers do not need to be factual, just something that you can remember e.g. what is your favourite fruit?
  • Be extra cautious when connecting your computer to unsecure networks, like those in free WiFi or internet cafés, as these are often recording all your activity.


Farmlands Chief Digital Officer, Richard Wilkinson places particular emphasis on online security. "Keeping yourself safe online is super important and not doing so can have big ramifications down the track," Richard says.

There are risks online but if steps are taken to mitigate them, the World Wide Web can be a hugely beneficial tool. "Dodgy emails are the most popular method used to gain access to your information and systems, so the best rule of thumb is: if in doubt, delete. "A few proactive steps can help you and your wha-nau stay safe online," he says.