Blockchain: Forging the Path to a Decentralised and Borderless Future – An Executive Interview with NEM Malaysia and Responsible Cyber

The biggest problem with blockchain is that people are still closely associating it to the digital trend that is Bitcoin. And the second problem, according to Magda Chelly, Managing Director of Responsible Cyber, is that they associate blockchain to security.

It has certain prominent features, such as immutability, that can potentially ensure private and tamper-free records. However, security can only be achieved if the organisation itself has taken due diligence by placing the necessary infrastructure, controls, design practices and effective workflow policies in order to mitigate the risks.

“That is because the risks will not just change or vanish with a new technology. It’s about ensuring privacy and security by default and having the right culture around security,” Magda said during an interview with CSA last week, at the Women In Blockchain event, where she gave a talk on the distributed ledger technology from a cybersecurity perspective.

Magda also serves as a cyber security evangelist/consultant at Responsible Cyber, a company that provides advisory services and training programs around cybersecurity, where she has supported CISOs of various organisations (from startups all the way to Fortune 500 companies) in their cyber security strategy and roadmap, while raising cyber security awareness and diversity at a global scale.

Magda views blockchain as an amazing technology that will allow organisations to address a myriad of existing problems in new and innovative ways, help organisations achieve better productivity and have a better overview and control over their data. But as with any technology, the key to the successful implementation of blockchain is by understanding it and how it can be applied in order to improve business.

She mentioned that it is the lack of awareness on the technology that’s currently holding back blockchain adoption and once people understand what the technology brings to the table, Magda is certain that they can find “use cases that are suitable for them to deploy even tomorrow”. But instead of disrupting the business wholesale, she said a better approach would be to adapt it slowly, integrate it with the legacy systems while having a roadmap to properly remove the traditional systems in the future.

Why Decentralisation Is The Future

The risk of overlooking disruptive technologies such as blockchain? Organisations are faced with the real “risk of being left behind, obsolete and therefore, losing out to their competitions eventually,” opined Jasmine Ng, Director, Investment & Special Projects, NEM Malaysia, organiser and host of last week’s event.

Since establishing itself as NEM Foundation’s regional operations hub, NEM Malaysia’s mission has been to spread the knowledge and use of blockchain within the ASEAN region through an array of support and education programs, as well as through NEM’s own enterprise-ready blockchain platform.  Jasmine informed us that NEM’s blockchain technology, which is API-driven, comes with a lot of functionalities (such as multi-signature accounts, mosaics and namespaces, to name a few) that make it easier for people to adopt and use blockchain technology, even without a coding background.

Blockchain is still a fairly new technology that has yet to reach full maturity. Therefore, for those who are interested in building a career in blockchain, Jasmine believes now is the perfect time for them to do so. There are already specialised courses and online resources related to blockchain available that can help them get there. What’s important is for them to be proactive in terms of learning the technology as well as getting involved with the various blockchain communities.

If the technology truly lives up to its potential over the years, the demand for blockchain experts and practitioners will certainly become much greater. Magda believes that decentralisation will be the norm in the future. “I don’t see the future being centralised. It is the wrong way to deal with data storage, especially personally identifiable information (PII). If you are centralised, it means that you are putting the risk into one place and if that place fails, you fail.”
She continued, “We’re going into globalisation and we don’t have borders in business almost anymore. So why would you have borders in technology? That time is gone. So the way to go is to decentralise. That is my vision for the future.”

Addressing the Talent Gap

However, although you can get away with blaming the lack of available talent for blockchain on the notion that it hasn’t been around for very long, the same cannot be said of the cybersecurity industry. According to a report from Frost & Sullivan and (ISC)², there will be more than 1.5 million unfilled positions in the global cybersecurity workforce by 2020. This, despite the fact that the security industry market is thriving.

Magda thinks the problem stems from a common misconception and narrow view that people have of being in cybersecurity. For one, it’s not just about the young hacker sitting in the garage room, hacking all day. “Cybersecurity is much more than that. Do I hack every day all day? No. Do I have the same expertise as all of my colleagues? Of course not. But we work together to help customers reach a certain level of resilience and readiness to cybersecurity,” she said.

Hence, she stated that the perception that cybersecurity is only one area limits people’s interest and understanding of how they can get into the industry.

To paint a picture of how broad the cybersecurity discipline actually is, she added, “Understanding the technology, building policies, making sure that you are compliant, having threat intelligence, making sure that you understand secure code practices to train developers, making sure that you have vulnerability management and incident management, which is a job in itself. So all this is part of building a [cybersecurity] team that has different skills.”

She pointed out the importance of diversity, not only in terms of gender, ethnicity or race in the workforce, but also diversity in skills, because ultimately, effectively securing systems from cyber-attacks has to involve communication, a little bit of psychology, as well as different technical know-hows.

For that reason, Magda believes that it’s actually possible for anyone to start a career in cybersecurity and bring unique value to cybersecurity teams.

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