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The vulnerability to Online Scamming in contemporary Tongan Society = Ko e laveangofua ‘i he Ngaue Kākā ‘o e Naluope ‘i he Sosaieti Tonga lolotonga

This research explores the cybersecurity vulnerabilities of Tongan people to the rapid growth of Information, Communication, and Technology (ICT). A research conducted by Laulaupea‘alu and Keegan in 2016 revealed that Tongan people were vulnerable to the influence of rapid ICT development (Laulaupea‘alu and Keegan, 2016). The cybersecurity vulnerabilities that were identified among the Tongan people in 2016 assisted in informing this research, which is to investigate the current susceptibilities in contemporary Tongan society. The aim of this research is to investigate the reasons why Tongans are vulnerable to ICT development specifically Online Scamming (OS) and find possible solutions to mitigate these susceptibilities. This research is the first to explore and narrow the scope to focus specifically on OS in Tonga. This research also focuses on the technical features of cybersecurity and then extends it to cover the cultural practices that would make Tongan people more susceptible to online scamming. Laulaupea‘alu and Keegan (2019) directly conveyed these cybersecurity susceptibilities to the Government of Tonga (GoT) in 2018. This report confirmed that the actual position of cybersecurity in Tonga was that at least 73 percent of the organisations were vulnerable to cybercrime and cyberattacks. These organisations were victims of malicious software, spam, unauthorized access, social engineering, ransomware, data theft/data loss, stolen account, and other types of cybercrimes. This report also provided eleven (11) recommendations and suggested to the GoT to deploy these cybersecurity prevention and awareness features to assist in slowing down the issues of cyberattacks in Tonga. One of the modern ICT accomplishments in Tonga was the installation of fibre-optic cable in 2013. Again, Laulaupea'alu and Keegan (2018) warned Tongans about the issue of succeeding in the fast internet speed of fibre-optic cable. The “high speed internet brings opportunities such as jobs and business but it also brings malicious cyber actors who can target victims in the nation” (p. 255). Drawn by the awareness of ICT issues that may arise and could lead to a stage where is unable to control, this research is undertaken to identify the root cause of these vulnerabilities, further looking for cybersecurity issues that are currently incurred and discovering appropriate defensive tools to counter these vulnerabilities. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted and became a major obstacle to this research. Due to border restrictions, there was no opportunity to travel to Tonga for data collection. To solve these issues, e-fanongonongo tokoto (e-ft) methodology was adopted to challenge the worldwide issues of COVID-19. The implementation of e-ft enabled effective communication from Hamilton to the survey participants in Tonga. E-mail, Facebook, Messenger, and Zoom are the communication methods deployed by e-ft to communicate and collect data from one hundred and thirty-nine (139) participants ranging from 16 to 70 years of age. Participants were selected from government ministries, organisations, boards, businesses and ICT grassroots computer users from all five main regions of Tonga (Tongatapu, Vava‘u, Ha‘apai, ‘Eua and Ongo Niua). Although the e-ft process encountered many obstacles in collecting data from the survey participants, it was able to generate responses and data that have been analysed in this research. The findings of this research reveal that Tonga is vulnerable to ICT development, and Tongan people are victims of cyberattacks due to the impact of rapid ICT development. These vulnerabilities relate to cybersecurity technical weaknesses, human behaviours, culture, and the personal beliefs of Tongans. This research also indicated that the people’s vulnerabilities were caused by five main elements: greed, romance/love/empathy, lack of cybersecurity training, lack of ICT knowledge, and unwillingness to report to authorities. These vulnerabilities have resulted in the loss of credential information and the loss of money to cybercriminals from the people of Tonga. Participants who took part in this research suggested powerful and long-term strategic plans to empower the prevention and awareness of Tongan people toward the impact of rapid ICT development.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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