Cyber security is an international "horror story" according to a visiting academic, and Waikato University may be part of the solution.
Fulbright specialist Professor Corey Schou, visiting from Idaho State University, said he was impressed by the new cyber security lab at Waikato University, which is the first of its kind in New Zealand and "fairly rare" throughout the world.
Schou said it came at a time when there was a growing shortage of cyber security experts worldwide.
"The rate of growth of demand is enormous - [around] 30 per cent - and the rate of supply is five per cent," he said.
The shortage comes at a time when the world needs cyber experts more than ever as governments, agriculture, the banking industry and critical infrastructure rely heavily on the internet, he said.
Businesses, small-to-medium sized enterprises in particular, did not take cyber security seriously enough, he said.
"They really don't understand the scale of the problem."
"Small business who suffer a computer system failure can never come back if they're out of business for more than three days."
Linking with business partners online had risks, with malware passed from insecure businesses to secure business.
"In computer security . . . you have to be diligent, you have to take due care, you have to be observant of what's going on around you," said Schou.
"It's your responsibility to protect yourself."
He said businesses needed to think about backing-up, regularly changing passwords, vetting employees and making sure they took security seriously.
Keeping intellectual property secure online was also "an issue" said Schou, as documents often needed to be accessible by groups of people in small businesses.
Waikato University's Senior Lecturer with the Computer Science department, Dr Ryan Ko, was currently working on how to make documents traceable.
"I think it's an absolutely brilliant piece of research," said Schou. "One of the things about information is I can steal it from you and you won't know I have it."
There are 20 students enrolled in Waikato University's cyber security programme and Schou said they will all be looking at near-guaranteed employment.
"I have a two year waiting list [to study the course] and a backlog of two years for employers wanting them [graduates]."
He wants the programme to be "an economic spark plug" where students from New Zealand can solve problems all over the world without having to leave the country.