As published in the Times of Malta on Friday 6th November 2015:
The concept of what constitutes National Security has drastically changed with the coming of age of the Internet. Physical borders are only part of the puzzle. With increasing dependency on the Internet, new security vulnerabilities emerge and the ability to detect such threats is becoming more and more complex.
We must aim to make Malta a secure place in which digital business and communication can flourish, whilst cyber threats are prevented or tackled appropriately. The Government has recently published its National Cyber Security Strategy (NCSS) Green Paper in a bid to start a discussion on the subject.
The Government cannot wrestle this challenge alone. The private sector owns, runs and hones the digital spaces that create today’s e-marketplaces. Any initiative to address cyber security must be the result of meaningful collaboration between these stakeholders in the context of adherence to international law and best practices.
We need to steer clear of a poverty of ambition in which Malta is merely a spectator of the developing global cyber security narrative. As a nation we must influence the debate and aspire to be respected as a center of excellence on the topic in the same way that the first post-Independence Government carved a name for us in the discussion about the Law of the Sea.
In this spirit, the legal dimension of the proposed NCSS is to be elevated further. The latest amendments to the Computer Misuse provisions and the transposition of the CNI Directive should have a bearing on the criminal-law aspect of this strategy, thus underpinning it within a more comprehensive legal framework.
The Budapest Convention on Cybercrime that seeks to address Internet and computer crime by harmonising national laws and increasing cooperation among nations should be an anchor-point for the NCSS. Malta should actively persuade other countries to develop compatible laws, so that cyber crimes can be prosecuted across borders without any safe havens thus ensuring better cooperative security. Subsequently Malta should contribute to the review of security provisions of the EU Data Protection Directive and the proposed EU Strategy on Information Security so as to align these with the objectives of the Green Paper.
It may be time to ambitiously delineate new legal sanctions that have an online (rather than offline) character. Online sanctions may be the best way to penalise online offences as they remove from virtual aggressors the key access that is needed for their aggression. A discussion about the adoption of such sanctions should occur within the Justice Reform Commission.
As has occurred in other jurisdictions, the Government needs to assign funds over a specific period of time to ensure that resources are available – and are known to be available – to attain the objectives set in the strategy. The execution of the NCSS must become a top national priority since its implementation will inevitably become a pre-requisite to economic growth and welfare.
Establishing an empirical baseline of where the nation stands with regards to cyber security is timely and relevant since future achievements can be measured against such start-line. The Supporting Document published with the NCSS doesn’t go too far in this regard and the NSO has virtually no data on the subject.
International experience can lend some insight by pointing towards common practices that have lead to success. The SME network that ultimately drives most European economies is often the weakest link in the cyber security chain. Government should consider introducing grants to assist small companies to boost their cyber security practices. Likewise Government should forge joint initiatives with the insurance sector to mitigate cyber security risks whilst focusing on prevention through education.
Cyberspace must remain open, free and secure for businesses and individuals. Cyber security can become a thriving business sector for Malta as i-gaming has been in recent years. Results in this sector require big ambitions.
Cover Photo by Flickr user ‘Perspecsys Photos – www.perspecsys.com’ used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.