NetSafe is an independent non-profit organisation based in Auckland, New Zealand. The organisation's purpose is to promote confident, safe, and responsible use of online technologies.
NetSafe works with a range of national and international government, business and civil society organisations to strengthen and extend the online safety and security education and support services available to all New Zealanders.
The organisation provides educational, incident response and advisory services directly to individual internet users and small business operators via a free telephone helpline, email enquiry service, social media platforms and via the Online Reporting Button website, The ORB.
NetSafe also advocates on behalf of New Zealanders to ensure that online safety and security needs are reflected in legislative or government policy changes.
NetSafe Inc. was founded as the Internet Safety Group in September 1998. It was incorporated as a society in April 2001 and changed its name to "NetSafe" in June 2008.
NetSafe has been New Zealand's primary cyber safety organisation for 17 years with educational and awareness raising campaigns being based on a range of research, theory and operational experience.
The organisation's expertise on cyberbullying and harmful digital communications further developed through doctoral research undertaken by Dr John Fenaughty published as "Challenging risk: NZ high-school students’ activity, challenge, distress, and resiliency, within cyberspace".
The organisation has evolved to tackle all forms of online harm based on The Digital Challenge Model.
This model provides a basis for understanding the broad range of cyber safety, cyber security and cyber crime challenges confronting New Zealanders.
As an incorporated society, NetSafe is a membership based organisation. There are currently over 130 national and international society members from across government, commercial and civil society sectors.
Cyber Safety has evolved over the last two decades from a traditional concept of 'protecting users from risk' to 'enabling digital citizens'.
In the early days of the internet, cyber safety was focused primarily on safeguarding children and putting in place protections to restrict access to online content and services.
Rapid changes in digital technology and increased access to internet services over multiple devices have enabled new, or evolved existing, online challenges. NetSafe believes that traditional prevention approaches that rely solely on technical protections, such as content filtering or activity logging, do not work. The non-profit believes that internet users also need to develop the skills and knowledge to keep themselves and others safe online.
NetSafe introduced its definition of a ‘digital citizen’ in 2010. The Digital Citizenship model provides a way of expressing the norms of appropriate and responsible behaviour that a society expects when using digital technology and are directly relevant to wider society.
A Digital Citizen:
- is a confident and capable user of digital technology
- can identify digital challenges and effectively manage them
- uses digital technologies to participate in economic, educational and cultural activities
- uses critical thinking skills when online
- is literate in the language, symbols, and texts of digital technologies
- uses digital technology to relate to others in positive, meaningful ways
- demonstrates honesty and integrity and ethical behaviour when using digital technology
- respects the concepts of privacy and freedom of speech in a digital world; and
- models the values of digital citizenship
Learn, Guide Protect
NetSafe’s Learn, Guide, Protect model was originally developed for New Zealand schools to provide a framework for developing cyber safety strategies. It can be applied by anyone engaged in supporting young people to develop safe and responsible online behaviours. It has three components:
- Learn: Students develop the competencies and values to keep themselves and others safe online. These are part of the broader concept of ‘digital citizenship’.
- Guide: The programmes, practice and resources put in place to support student learning and develop a culture of positive digital technology at school and in the wider community. For example, integrating online safety into the school curriculum, developing teacher and leadership capability, strengthening relationships with family and whānau and engaging students in planning and delivery.
- Protect: Technical methods to restrict or monitor online access and school developed policies that underpin a safe and secure digital learning environment. For example, incident response plan and reporting channels, school policies and technical restrictions or monitoring of online access.
Digital Challenge in New Zealand
NetSafe staff speak with around one thousand New Zealanders each monthly on average and can advise on a wide range of digital challenges that involve aspects of cyber safety, cyber security and cyber crime. In many cases, the boundaries between these three types of digital challenge can often be blurred.
The non-profit published the Digital Challenge and New Zealanders report on Safer Internet Day, 10 February 2015, that analysed more than 8000 reports and queries in 2014. Of these, more than 850 reports involved a direct financial loss. The total reported loss was nearly $8 million.
New Zealanders also experience other, non-financial, types of harms from online harassment of adults or young people. Over 10% (921) of the reports NetSafe handled in 2014 involved bullying behaviours or online harassment.
NetSafe provides advice and guidance about computer security for home internet users and SMEs based on the rugby themed Tight 5.
The campaign promotes five computer security steps that can help protect devices and data from common cybersecurity threats including social engineering, phishing, malware and brute force attacks. The campaign was based on NetSafe's computer security incident data and the Australian Department of Defence's 4 Strategies to Mitigate Targeted Cyber Intrusions and was adapted for home users. The five steps are:
- Think before you click
- Update everything
- Backup your files
- Secure your wireless network
- Use strong passwords
From 2014 digital challenge data, NetSafe identified 3 key issues that NZ small businesses need to be aware of:
- Intercepted emails
- Hacked websites
NetSafe recorded 520 computer security incidents in 2014 with the impact of the average incident being $10,689.
In 2009, NetSafe developed the animated video series Net Basics which was nominated for a Webby Award in the Best Use Of Animation Or Motion Graphics category. Advertising for the campaign appeared in movie theatres and on television and encouraged New Zealanders to watch the 11 short episodes to learn simple ways to protect themselves online.
In 2005, NetSafe promoted New Zealand’s First Online Security Day (30 November 2005) to coincide with the international Computer Security Day. The Net Basics campaign emphasised the importance of straightforward, regular maintenance of a computer to keep personal information secure. The campaign slogan: WOF your computer used the analogy of a New Zealand 'Warrant of Fitness' for a car and encouraged computer owners to apply software updates and run anti-virus scans. The campaign was sponsored by Westpac, Symantec and seven government agencies (Ministry of Justice, State Services Commission, New Zealand Police, Ministry of Education, Centre for Critical Infrastructure Protection, Ministry of Economic Development and Department of Internal Affairs).
NetSafe's 2014 Digital Challenge report analysed the $8m in losses reported to the organisation over the course of the year and identified the five most common forms of financial fraud:
- Investment scams
- Dating and romance scams
- Upfront payment scams
- Small business scams
- Online trading scams
New Zealand Police has seen rising demand from emerging crime types such as cybercrime and published the Prevention First: National Cyber Crime Operating Strategy in 2014.
At a Distance - A Short Film about Cyberbullying
In 2009 NetSafe recognised the need to address issues of cyberbullying and cyber-harassment for late primary school students (aged 8 to 12 years). Following consultation and collaboration with the Primary sector, NetSafe produced a short film At a Distance for schools and families to use discuss the issues of cyberbullying and harassment with a slightly younger audience.
The film highlights the importance of bystander action in helping to manage and stop cyberbullying and harassment. The film is hosted on NetSafe's www.cyberbullying.org.nz website, which includes information on what cyberbullying is and how you can support someone being harassed in this way.
In April 2003, the NetSafe Kit for Schools was sent to every school and library in New Zealand. This comprehensive kit was sponsored by the Ministry of Education, the New Zealand Police, Child, Youth & Family and the JR McKenzie Trust. This kit builds on the great success of the Internet Safety Kit (2000). Like its predecessor, the NetSafe Kit for Schools is considered a model of best practice by the Ministry of Education.
Email Query Service
Queries can be sent by email to the ISG, or people within New Zealand can call the toll-free Helpline (0508 NetSafe). The ISG receives queries about txt bullying, Cyber-bullying, online harassment, managing social networking profiles on a social network service, images of child sexual abuse, spam (electronic), cyberstalking, Internet fraud, hacking and the hacker (computer security), phishing, sex offenders contacting children and much more. The email queries have come from every continent, including Antarctica!
National and International Collaboration on Cybersafety
Although the Internet Safety Group is based in Auckland, key members travel to all parts of New Zealand and overseas to give lectures, seminars and workshops on cybersafety topics. Presentations have also been given at national and international conferences, and for school parent groups, service clubs, community organisations and city councils.
Articles written by members of the ISG or about NetSafe have appeared in almost every major newspaper and educational publication in New Zealand, as well as journals like Social Work Now and the US Journal of School Violence, and magazines like New Zealand Woman's Weekly. Radio, television and print journalists have come to rely on the ISG for comment on a broad range of issues regarding safety with communication technologies.
The Internet Safety Group has pioneered research on Internet risk in New Zealand and also works collaboratively with researchers overseas on projects of international importance.
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