The role of CISOs in shaping robust cybersecurity laws

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Newly appointed chief information and security officer (CISO) at the University of the Witwatersrand Galeboe Mogotsi discusses the important role security officers must play in shaping the country’s cybersecurity laws.

Cybersecurity law constitutes a vital component within the legal framework, addressing issues pertinent to the internet, cyberspace and associated legal matters. Its scope covers a wide array of topics, including, but not limited to, freedom of expression, internet accessibility and usage, and online privacy concerns.

In South Africa, the prevalence of cybercrime has surged dramatically, prompting the enactment of the Cybercrimes Act to enhance public safety against threats posed by criminals, terrorists and foreign entities. This legislation serves to consolidate cybercrime statutes and relevant regulations under the Cybercrimes Act, with a primary objective of bolstering secure data transmission over the internet.

According to Michalsons, a leading specialist law firm, the Cybercrimes Act gives the South African Police Service (and their members and investigators) extensive powers to investigate, search, access and seize just about anything (like a computer, database or network) wherever it might be located, provided they have a search warrant. Foreign states will co-operate to investigate cybercrimes.

However it is also important to understand the role that CIOs and CISOs play in shaping the laws that surround cybersecurity, and how they are keeping environments secure.

Navigating a complex landscape

In the digital era, where the boundaries of cybersecurity threats are continually expanding, the need for stringent and adaptive cybersecurity laws has never been more critical. However, the complexity of the digital landscape poses a significant challenge to legislators, often leading to gaps in regulations that can be exploited by cybercriminals. Within this context, CISOs hold a unique position of influence and responsibility. CISOs, with their in-depth knowledge of cybersecurity threats and defence mechanisms, can play a pivotal role in assisting the government in tightening cybersecurity laws.

The first step towards meaningful legislation in cybersecurity is understanding the myriad threats and the technical complexities involved. CISOs can demystify these aspects for policymakers through regular briefings, reports and consultations. By sharing expertise, CISOs ensure that legislators are well informed about the cybersecurity threats their laws aim to combat, leading to more practical and effective regulations.

Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility, and public-private partnerships (PPPs) stand as a testament to the power of collaboration. Through PPPs, CISOs can facilitate a two-way exchange of information regarding threats, vulnerabilities and countermeasures. This exchange not only aids in the rapid adaptation of security measures, but also ensures that cybersecurity laws reflect the current threat landscape and technological capabilities.

Policy development benefits immensely from the direct involvement of CISOs. Serving on advisory panels or committees, CISOs can provide critical insights into how proposed laws might impact businesses operationally and financially. Their guidance can help strike a balance between stringent security measures and the operational flexibility businesses need to innovate and grow.

Awareness and education form the cornerstone of cybersecurity. By engaging in public speaking, writing articles, and participating in community outreach, CISOs can elevate the public understanding of cybersecurity risks and the importance of robust cybersecurity laws. An informed public is more likely to support necessary legislative changes and adopt practices that reduce their risk of cybersecurity incidents.

Lastly, cybersecurity threats do not respect national boundaries, making international cooperation essential. CISOs can advocate for and participate in international cybersecurity forums and treaties. Through these channels, they can help harmonise cybersecurity laws across borders, enhancing global cybersecurity posture.

By proactively contributing to the legislative process, CISOs not only safeguard their organisations but also play a crucial role in the global fight against cybercrime. The path to robust cybersecurity laws requires a collective effort, and CISOs are essential to this journey.

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