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Data Breaches and Consumer Trust in Australia [Cyber Security Study]

by OCAdmin

Cyber security has been hitting the headlines more and more frequently in Australia, with the recent Services NSW cyber attack in April, and the cyber attack on the Australian Government by state-based actors. In May, in the Netherlands, there was a 381% increase in cyber crime reported, so we can see that cyber security incidents are only set to grow even further as “this is not unique for the Netherlands; cyber crime is exploding globally” says David Janssen, CEO of VPNoverview.

In a recent survey conducted by Open Colleges, 1200 Australians were asked, “Which businesses and organisations do you trust with your personal data?”. 

A startling two-thirds of respondents (65.5%) answered that they didn’t trust any of the following industries with their personal data: 

  • Government
  • Health
  • Retail
  • IT
  • Education
  • Apps and Social Media
Which businesses and organisations do you trust with your personal data?

What is a data breach?

There are many different types of cyberattacks with differing methods and aims, but one that does affect the everyday person is the data breach. Data breaches occur when private information is released, stolen, and/or used by unauthorised parties.

Which industries had the most breaches in Australia in 2019?

It might surprise you learn which industries in Australia had the most data breaches in 2019. In fact, the five sectors included in our survey topped the list for the most data breaches. According to data from Webber Insurance, there were at least 81 data breaches of Australian consumers’ information in 2019. The graph below shows which industries had the highest number of breaches.

In contrast, the below chart shows the responses from our survey of the most trusted sectors.

Most trusted sectors with personal data

The Australian public was close to the money with lower trust in Apps/Social Media, the IT industry, however many showed trust in Health in Government which were shown above to have the second and third highest numbers of breaches in 2019.

Another highly trusted industry was Education: Schools and Universities. A recent survey by Netwrix, an IT security software company, found that 50% of educational organisations in the US had data breaches in 2019.

It seems natural to have the most trust in organisations you trust with your most personal information, like health services and the government. And yet it seems that no industry is safe from data breaches, but is this where we should be focussing our energy?

Are data breaches from cyber attacks what we should be concerned about?

As companies improve their cyber security, cybercriminals work on their skills. If we consider that some amount of data breaches may be inevitable, should we not focus more on how well companies are securing customer data and thereby mitigating risk?

“[…] What I think has eroded trust more than malicious data breaches […] is when consumers believe their data has been misused or hasn’t been handled and secured with care. This I think is a harder level of trust loss to recover from.”

Nick Savvides, Senior Director of Strategic Business, APAC at Forcepoint.

Are companies doing enough to protect data?

“Basic cyber security measures are not implemented at the top of organisations enough. This is a major concern, especially with more employers working from home. Without the usual firewalls and security protocols implemented on office networks, consumers’ data is vulnerable to breaches more so than ever before”

Rob Shavell, Co-founder of Abine/DeleteMe.

With the ever-increasing amount of cybercrime and changes to working from home, companies and consumers need to step up their cyber security game. What is clear is that there is a growing need for more cyber security professionals, not only to protect companies and countries but also to protect and educate individuals.

Increased demand for cyber security professionals

According to AustCyber, there is a severe shortage of cyber security professionals and that nearly 17,000 professionals will be needed by 2026. Since the state-based attack on the Australian Government, Scott Morrison announced new spending packages for cyber security in defence to the tune of $1.35 billion.

How can you begin your career in cyber security?

Cyber security is a fast-growing industry, full of challenges and is just waiting for you to come on board. Check out Open Colleges’ online course Certified Cyber Security Professional in partnership with the Australian Institute of ICT and DDLS, so you can gain the skills you need to begin your career in cyber security.


Survey results included responses from over 1,200 people Australians aged 18 and over. The facilitators of this study incentivised two groups of respondents to participate in this study:

  • Internet users across a range of programs who are rewarded for their opinion in exchange for access to free content
  • Smartphone users who opt in to participate in opinion polls in exchange for rewards determined by the research company  

Internet users’ locations are determined using their IP and their demographic data is based on the target user profile of the website. Smartphone users who opt-in provide this information upon signing up to the rewards program.

The facilitators of this study ensure a balanced opinion poll by ensuring the sample of the study reflects the demographics of the target audience. For example, internet users over the age of 18. Such demographics include age, gender and geographic location. In Australia, we rely on data from Government sources such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics and other sources of data provided by web partners such as Google.

The facilitators of this study maintain the integrity of the research data by using the following 2 steps:

  1. Stratified sampling by filtering demographic data to align with the intended audience, and
  2. Post-stratification weighting to ensure consistency between intended and actual audience population data.

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