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The level of concern about security issues is at its highest level in five years in Australia, with the public more concerned about data breaches at banks, credit card companies and telecommunications providers than at government services, health providers or airlines/hotels.

In its latest Security Index just released, global IT services company, Unisys, reveals that privacy tops the list of security issues and concerns for more than 60% of Australians surveyed.

In he wake of the findings, Unisys cautions that 2013 is emerging as a year of growing security concern for the majority of Australians, with increased concern recorded across all categories of the latest Index conducted by Newspoll.

According to Unisys, the overall security index for Australia this year is 129 out of a possible score of 300, the highest recorded in Australia since May 2008, reflecting a jump of 19 points compared to March 2012 – the second largest increase across the 12 countries in the study, behind only the UK.

The national survey of 1,200 adult Australians, conducted in April 2013 by Newspoll, found nearly three-quarters of Australians surveyed said that they were personally concerned about a potential data breach of their information held by financial institutions including banks and credit card companies.  

And, according to the survey, two in three Australian respondents were concerned about data breaches by telecommunication providers, and more than half were concerned about government services and health organisations.

Percentage of Australians concerned about a data breach by accidental loss, theft or deliberate hacking at the following types of organisations:

Percentage of Australians concerned about a data breach by accidental loss, theft or deliberate hacking at the following types of organisations:

Financial services such as credit card companies, banks

74%

Telecommunication providers and Internet Service Providers

67%

Government services such as social welfare, tax office or immigration

59%

Health organisations, hospitals and doctors

56%

Airlines and hotels including frequent  flyer programs

 50%

In addition, the Unisys research found that the majority of Australians are concerned that a range of commercial and government organisations are vulnerable to an accidental or malicious data breach, particularly financial institutions, telecommunication providers and government services.

“Our research shows that a majority of Australians are concerned about data breaches across many different sectors of government and business that consumers trust to hold and protect sensitive personal information such as financial, taxation and medical details,” said John Kendall, security program director for Unisys Asia Pacific.

“More than half of respondents said they are worried about the protection of personal data from theft, hacking or accidental loss.  This sends a message to governments and companies that the public perception of data security has been compromised by high-profile breaches and that organisations must take action to regain public trust.”

Kendall comments further: “As the Australian government finalises its mandatory data breach notification laws, these results show that the public is very aware of the threat of data breaches and would expect organisations to be accountable.

“The question is, how will compliance to these new laws be managed?  Unisys recommends that notification be triggered by those data breaches that have the greatest risk of harm and that the laws focus on the potential impact of the data breach on individuals and organisations.”

According to Kendall, privacy issues are still the top security concern for Australians, with 62% of Aussies “extremely or very concerned about unauthorised access to or misuse of their personal information, and 60% concerned about other people obtaining or using their credit/debit card details.”

Kendall also says the survey reveals that the concern about data breaches reflects a rise in overall security concerns across Australia and, that as the nation prepares for the next federal election, the level of security concern has increased markedly across all four security areas surveyed including:

•    National Security Index – 128  (up 25 from 103 in March 2012)
 
•    Financial Security Index – 139 (up 18 from 121 in March 2012)
 
•    Internet Security Index – 123 (up 17 from 106 in March 2012)
 
•    Personal Security Index – 124 (up 15 from 109 in March 2012)

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Peter Dinham

 

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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