“е-Society.mk”: The best cybersecurity weapons are the prevention and the education of the society


(This content is a translation of the original article in Macedonian, published on the 6th of December 2022)

We must have trained and educated citizens with both knowledge and skills if we want to counteract the cybersecurity challenges, while the country must be efficient and provide appropriate legislation. This, among the other things, was highlighted in the panel discussion “Cybersecurity and Human Rights in the Western Balkans”, which was a part of the 8th international conference “E-Society.mk” organized by the Metamorphosis Foundation in Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia.

The panel discussion was moderated by Marijana Jancheska from Metamorphosis. The panelists gave an overview of the current cybersecurity capacities in the Western Balkan countries and gave their recommendations to include the human rights standards in cybersecurity management and for better implementation of the provisions for human rights in the region.

“There are differences in the definitions of cybersecurity, the most frequent connotation is “Critical structures concentrated around the idea of national or state security”. But then, how often do those national strategies mention human rights? Very rarely. Regarding recommendations, all Western Balkan countries and their economies show progress in the legal framework. There is the foundation with strong pillars, but the experts believe that a cybersecurity culture should be established that, apart from the aspect of approach or response, will include awareness for the topic. Cybersecurity is a common concern and not only for one small specific group of actors”, said Laylo Merali from the Geneva Center for Security Sector Governance, DCAF.

Aleksandar Acev from the National Center for Computer Incident Response MKD-CIRT, which is operational within the Electronic Communications Agency, said that efforts should be focused on the vulnerable parts and risks and on constant awareness-raising. He added that the legal issue should also be resolved.

“We are still lacking a specific law on cybersecurity. We have a draft law, but it has not been adopted yet. I don’t know what will be the fate of that version of the law. Regarding cybersecurity incidents, I would like to stress the importance of legislation – or lack of legislation – which means that the statistics have been collected by volunteers, because there is no reporting tool available. This is one of the issues that we are waiting to be addressed”, Acev said.

According to the data from the survey that he presented, 57 percent of the respondents used antivirus, while 40 percent did not use antivirus software.

“We should have educated and trained citizens with both knowledge and skills and that is important” remarked Acev, advocating for citizen’s education as important for cybersecurity.

Photo: Metamorphosis Foundation

Svetlana Nikoloska, professor at the Faculty of Security of the University “Sveti Kliment Ohridski” (Saint Clement of Ohrid) from Bitola, spoke about cybersecurity from the viewpoint of financial frauds. According to her, the state must be more efficient and, consequently, educate the citizens.

“Investigations are required… someone to undertake these investigations, because getting to electronic data is not such a difficult task. Compensation is the most difficult job. Criminals don’t sleep, they wаnder around, from one country to another, and they transfer funds to places where nothing can touch them, in the off-shore countries. We have the capacity. My colleagues from the cybercrime sector are building capacity from one day to the next, and more and more… But citizens need to be aware… they should not keep silent, because silence empowers criminals”, said Nikoloska presenting the data related to financial criminal activities through computer systems registered since 2017 in Macedonia.

Megi Reci from the Institute for Democracy and Mediation spoke about cybersecurity in Albania and mentioned the scandal of the leaked information about the vehicle registration plates, but also about the attacks of government websites and government officials. She gave several recommendations on cybersecurity issues in Western Balkan countries.

“A comprehensive approach is required to include good governance, human rights… Instruments for decreasing risks of discrimination, for better decision-making, should be developed in all Western Balkan countries. Transparency is quite relevant for democratic governance. We should know how to assess the risks. In addition, the private sector should be accountable and comply with the rules for personal data protection. A general system for data gathering on online bullying should also be created – this is something that is lacking in Albania and a full-fledged investigation is impossible, so we don’t really know what the situation is really like. We should develop it so that we can identify the areas of intervention and help victims of bullying”, Reci said.

Hvale Vale from the Association for Progressive Communication said that it is very important for systems to be people-centered and that if we want to have a just society, we must be a society for everyone and democracy is there to protect the most vulnerable.

“We must understand that the cybersecurity hierarchy makes people relevant and we must focus on their experience, voice, participation… Without that, we can not have security and freedom for all”, Vale said.

This year’s edition of e-Society.mk will last 2 days and it consists of 7 panel discussions, 2 inspirational speeches, 1 television debate and the screening of the film “Sisterhood” by Dina Duma (in the Cinematheque of North Macedonia).

Activists, experts, journalists, civil servants and supporters of the Wsetern Balkan region and wider will share their positions and opinions on digital transformation of public administration and societies, respect for human rights in the online area, supervising and processing biometric data, privacy, and ramifications of cyberbullying in real life.

The conference will include discussions about disinformative narratives, the effects of disinformation and foreign malign influences on democracy in North Macedonia as well as the security threats for democracy and the European efforts to fight against disinformation.

Conference Agenda can be seen here.

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