Australia’s Changing Security Practices

    By Ashwin Pal

    This year’s Unisys Security Index reveals that safety fears will not keep Australians from attending public events or experiences; however, our behaviours, actions and choices are changing. Ashwin Pal, Director of Security Services from Unisys, explores how Australians are minding their physical wellbeing and protecting their data in 2019.  

    First undertaken in 2007, the Unisys Security Index is the longest running snapshot of security concerns conducted globally. Based on the survey results from more than 1,000 adults in 13 key countries, this year’s Index shows that the definition of ‘being safe’ increasingly refers to the safety of our digital assets, as well as our physical selves.

    To see the relationship between our digital and physical security concerns in action, this year’s Index explored how confident citizens felt attending large-scale events such as sporting matches or music festivals. The Index also explored what steps Australians are taking to protect themselves.

    In Australia, our digital and physical wellbeing has become so entwined that respondents were equally concerned about cyber and physical threats at large-scale events. Forty-three percent of Australians say they are seriously concerned about a criminal attack causing physical harm. Similarly, 43 percent are seriously concerned about someone stealing their personal data from their mobile device. The same number of people are concerned about someone stealing their credit card data when using public Wi-Fi.

    Not Without my Smartphone

    Imagine your favourite band just announced its new tour dates. You jump onto your smartphone, check with your family or friends to see who wants tickets and furiously refresh the ticket suppliers page when they go on sale to get the best seats possible.

    It is now the day of the concert. The tickets you paid for online are in your digital wallet and you have just received an SMS from the event organiser with tips about the best ways to get to the stadium. Taking on the advice of the SMS, you start to plan your trip to the venue. You check public transport options on your phone and then swipe to find your favourite ride share app to see how prices are looking. Public transport wins the day and you tap on with your pre-paid transport card.

    Once you have made it to the stadium, you cannot resist buying some nachos from a market seller and a tour t-shirt is a must too – two quick taps of your phone and the transactions are made.

    With so many concertgoers, the mobile network is a little slow, so you jump on the free Wi-Fi and your phone buzzes wildly as a flood of WhatsApp messages come through naming the location for where you and your friends or family will meet. Now that you have found everyone and made it to your seats, you take a snap of the team excitedly waiting for the show to start; and naturally you share it using airdrop.

    Events, sports matches and concerts are one of those moments in life where our digital identities and the physical world collide. Without both the digital and the physical, the experience would not be as fast, easy, rich, enjoyable or memorable.

    Each digital interaction, however, has the potential to put our personal and financial data at risk.

    When travelling to large-scale events such as a World Cup sports match or music festival, how concerned are you about the following security issues?
    Security Issue Very/extremely concerned Somewhat concerned Not concerned Not sure
    A criminal might attack and harm event attendees 43% 36% 17% 3%
    Credit card data on your mobile device could be stolen when you use public
    43% 29% 23% 5%
    Criminals might target you on the streets near the event 43% 31% 21% 4%
    Personal data on your mobile device could be stolen when you use public
    Wi-Fi at the event
    40% 34% 22% 3%
    Hackers will send event attendees emails with links to trick them into granting access to their mobile devices 37% 31% 28% 4%


    Concerned but Confident

    With one in four Australians very concerned about the risks to their personal or digital security at large-scale events, are Australians ready to hang up their festival outfits and sporting jerseys? The short answer is no, but a deeper look at the results of the Unisys Security Index shows that Australians are taking a more considered approach to attending events than in the past.

    According to the Index, just one in 10 Australians says their behaviours and decisions about attending large-scale events remain unchanged. For the other nine, attending a large-scale event is now a series of rational decisions to protect themselves physically and digitally.

    Three in ten (30 percent) say they now think twice about attending large-scale events and one in five (19 percent) have changed their plans based on their concerns for the safety. A quarter of Australians (23 per cent) still attend large-scale events, but take proactive steps to protect their mobile devices and wallets.

    The prioritisation of protection for our digital assets and data over our physical safety is representative of the current security mindset in Australia, where the top three security concerns all relate to data theft. More than half (57 percent) of adult Australians are seriously concerned about unauthorised access to their personal data, bankcard fraud (56 percent) and computer hacking or viruses (54 percent).

    Fear for our data outweighs our concerns about the threat of terrorism (49 percent), fear of a natural disaster (43 percent) or general personal safety (32 percent).

    A Proactive Approach to Security

    Overall, the news is good. Australians are aware of the risks associated with making online bookings and purchases, using public Wi-Fi and receiving messages from non-trusted sources and are taking sensible steps to reduce their risk of falling victim to data theft or even a physical attack.

    Along with taking their own steps and precautions to protect their data and personal safety, Australians are largely in support of the police having access to and even saving event surveillance footage to assist in the prevention of crime. Of those surveyed, 47 percent had no concerns with police capturing and saving event surveillance video.

    To stay safe and keep data protected at large-scale events such as concerts or festivals, Unisys has ten key tips for Australians to observe:

    1. Only buy event tickets from official channels or websites you trust. Make sure the website you are using to buy tickets shows the secure padlock icon in the browser and the address begins “https://”. And if ticket prices look too good to be true, they probably are.
    2. Plan ahead and check local authorities’ alerts. Sign up for any travel or news alerts provided or recommended by the event organisers to receive updates on traffic or news of any potential disturbances on event day.
    3. If you are going to a crowded event alone, let someone know. Make sure your friends or family know where you are going, when you plan to arrive and when you are expected to return.
    4. Travel light. There is no need to take everything you own to a festival. Leave the valuables at home and travel light, with just the essentials – in your pockets if possible.
    5. As soon as you get to the event, survey your surroundings. Make sure you know where the exits are and agree on a meeting place with your friends in case you get separated from your group. Know where stewards and information points are so you can speak to someone if you need to.
    6. Update your mobile device and avoid unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Make sure your phone is updated with the latest software, so it is as secure as it can be. And only use password-protected Wi-Fi. Unprotected Wi-Fi networks could give hackers access to personal or financial data on your phone.
    7. Do not make electronic transactions with unofficial event vendors. Be careful with your contactless cards or making mobile transactions, particularly outside event venues. Unscrupulous traders could be gathering your financial data to use or sell to other criminals.
    8. Be vigilant for suspicious activity at an event. Do not be afraid to report something you think is unusual, such as unattended baggage or people behaving in a suspicious or threatening way.
    9. Keep your phone charged in case of emergencies. If possible, take a battery charger pack with you to ensure your phone is always available when you need it.
    10. In an emergency, stay calm and move to the edges of crowds. Try to leave the area quickly and calmly. If you need to get away from the incident quickly, hide yourself if need be, call 000 when you can and then let your family know you are safe.