National Cyber Ethics Initiative to instil good conduct, self-discipline and responsibility

The current Covid-19 pandemic has not only led millions confined to their homes, but also resulted in a significant paradigm shift towards digitalisation across the globe. With so many of our daily life routines such as working, shopping, and even religious practices moving to the digital platform, the issue of online privacy and security have come under intense spotlight.

As our digital footprints grow exponentially, we are also more vulnerable to data breaches and identity theft. But there are several measures that we can take to minimize the risks of both. Cyber Ethics refers to the code of conduct on the Internet. It represents a guide for individuals to stay safe while practising positive, prudent, and ethical practices online based on common sense and good judgement. Similar to our Rukun Negara, cyber ethics practices help to create a conducive cyber environment that leads to strong digital nationhood.

For Malaysia to succeed in digital transformation, it is imperative that all netizens practise good digital citizenship through appropriate, responsible, and empowered technology use. According to Datareportal’s Digital 2021 Report, Malaysia’s Internet penetration stood at 84.2% in January 2021 with an estimated 27.43 million Internet users. One of the key missions of CyberSecurity Malaysia is to galvanize organisations to become advocators and implementers of cyber ethics and thus, create a safer cyber ecosystem.

Advocating Good Behaviours for Every Netizen

Respecting privacy and safeguarding the proper use of personal information underpin cyber ethics. One must respect each other’s space and not intrude or intentionally do harm to another by hacking, stealing or infecting another’s digital properties (IP) with malware and viruses. Equally important is for a good netizen to value the dignity of an individual by being courteous online and not resort to cyber-bullying or smearing one’s reputation with fake news and malicious statements.

Towards this end, CyberSecurity Malaysia, together with the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia, have developed a National Cyber Ethics Initiative to instil noble values, good conduct, self-discipline and a sense of responsibility among digital technology users in Malaysia. Based on the 5th principle of Rukun Negara of ‘Politeness and Morality’, our EtiKA campaign aims to elevate the knowledge on cyber ethics so as to create awareness amongst netizens. The campaign is driven by three components: Cyber Wellness, Cyber Parenting and Cyber Hygiene.

Youth Programs to Inculcate Cyber Ethics

CyberSecurity Malaysia has also taken a proactive role in making resources available for parents and children to learn about cyber ethics. CyberSAFE (Cyber Safety Awareness for Everyone) Program is one such long-standing public-private initiatives pioneered by Cybersecurity Malaysia to educate and enhance awareness on the technological and social issues facing Internet users. Another national level program designed for youth and students is NICTSeD – Malaysia’s annual national cyber security discourse competition open to high schools nationwide, organized by CyberSecurity Malaysia in collaboration with the Educational Resources and Technology Division, Ministry of Education Malaysia since 2013. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic preventing face-to-face interactions, NICTSeD 2021 managed to proceed through a virtual platform and is expected to attract approximately 330 students across Malaysia from 110 schools to participate.

Upholding Cybersecurity Ethics among Cyber Security Practitioners

While the importance of cyber ethics amongst every netizen cannot be overemphasized, it is equally critical for cyber security professionals and practitioners to uphold cyber security ethics. Cyber security practices protect the integrity, functionality, and reliability of organisations that rely upon such data, systems, and networks. According to a research module ‘An Introduction to Cybersecurity Ethics’ published by Santa Clara University in the United States, cybersecurity professionals are challenged ethically on multiple levels. Many are confronted with difficult technical choices that have ethical implications. These include which security techniques are most likely to be effective, what resources are required, and what types of security risk are acceptable?

Due to the vast amount of sensitive data that individuals and organisations generate today, the risk of cyber threats to privacy such as identity theft is high. Most individuals have little to no ability to personally curate, delete, correct, or control the storage or release of their private information especially those stored in the cloud. Similarly, facial and voice recognition algorithms, as well as geocoded mobile data which are leaked, can also identify and gather personal information about each individual as he or she moves around in public and private spaces.

Ethical Issues in Cybersecurity

Ethical issues are at the core of cybersecurity practices. In highly networked societies, sensitive data rarely stays confined to the digital context in which it was originally created or shared. This puts an immense pressure on cybersecurity professionals, who are increasingly trusted to supply the critical line of defence against personal and organisational data theft. The reputational, economic, and emotional harms that release of sensitive data into the wrong hands could be damaging. Poor cybersecurity practices, from poor patching efforts and outdated encryption tools to a lack of incident response planning, can be more than just ineffective.

Another ethical issue faced by cybersecurity practitioners is transparency and disclosure. Cybersecurity is a form of risk management. Those risks may significantly impact other parties, and therefore, there is a default ethical duty to disclose those risks when known, so that those affected can make informed decisions. Furthermore, in pursuit of newer skill sets and knowledge, many cybersecurity professionals may have conflicting interests to the public, government agencies, employers or clients. As such, all industries should adopt a shared ethics framework for online data security and privacy within digital business models.

Establish a Stronger Cyber Ethical Framework

Cybersecurity professionals need to be mindful to the many ways in which their practices significantly impact the lives of all netizens. They must learn to better anticipate the potential harms and benefits so that cyber threats can be effectively addressed. As we navigate through these current challenges, we need to lay a secure foundation for the next phase of growth of our digital economy. A holistic and robust cyber ethical framework will therefore help enhance Malaysia’s cyber resilience and counter ever-evolving cyber threats into the future.

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