In an exclusive conversation with The Cyber Express, Celia Mantshiyane discusses various aspects of cybersecurity, the role women play in STEM and how the cyber space has changed in the past two decades.
Q1: How did the journey begin? How did you come to stumble upon this domain of cybersecurity, which is basically pretty rare?
I normally say to people cybersecurity chose me; I never chose security. I started off my career in finance. I have always been a business, always been crushing the numbers. Then I got an opportunity to join Auditor General, which is an audit firm for South Africa. I started working in IT and met an incredible leader mean. Literally, I was taught IT, and within a short period of time, I was at the office of the CIO.
And then, obviously, cybersecurity was just one of those buzzwords that was coming up as a concern for organizations at that time. And because I’m a person that likes to learn, I said to the boss, you know what, let me give a stab at it. I enjoyed it. Because every day brings in challenges every day, you learn something new, and you actually get to engage with business, which is quite nice.
Q2: There are just there 24% women in the entire cybersecurity industry. The participation of women has gone up only in the recent past. So, how do you think this changed? For you, was that a kind of impediment that you had to pause
Even now, we don’t have many women in the cyberspace. There’s a lot of things and programs that we’re currently running to ensure that obviously, we get more women into the space, but it’s mainly male driven.
Finding a mentor, whether it’s a man or woman, as long as they are in that space, because earlier there were not qualifications for cybersecurity. Back in the days we had to learn firewalls and all. Now, you can go to university and register for a course, to better yourself.
But at the same time, there are internships that are currently running just for cybersecurity. MTN currently is running a massive intern program of just women as well in Google today. Currently in my own team, we are hiring women in the cyber space. It’s about us as leaders doing something, but as well partnering with organizations to ensure that we have equality within the space.
Q3: In which year did you become the CISO for the first time and when did you get into this role?
It was in 2017-2018 at Coca-Cola. That was my first CISO role. Coke was very exciting, a global organization, well grounded. You need to learn how to actually engage with different people from different cultures, but at the same time, speak the same language, which is cyber.
The love of cyber literally from Coke, I think I matured in the company very well. And hence, it was quite easy for me to transition into a network organization as well, which is MTN.
But in terms of security itself, it started more than 10 years ago. But mostly at that time, it was governance. Little did I know that I was moving into cyber bit by bit as I am today.
Q4: How has cybersecurity changed over the past 20 years?
Governance is quite important, whether it’s audit or governing on monthly basis. However, cyber security has literally increased in organization. You have to be an organization that moves away from technology security to more business security, and that’s how it has evolved.
Back in the days, we used to sit and discuss with IT the server risks that are out there currently. As a CISO, I discuss with businesses. I have to show the cybersecurity strategy that I have to align with the business strategy.
And then you become a trusted adviser, on how we actually make use of our cyber risks within the organization. So that’s one area where it has changed.
As a CISO, your personality and trustworthiness is of importance. You can’t be a cybersecurity leader and the next thing is that people don’t want to engage with you.
You need to be healthy, have better language that is business language driven. You can’t be talking IP addresses. So that has also changed.
From a technical point of view, security by design, back in the days, we used to patch just a bit and, it was firewalls at the end. But now there are processes and procedures that we are currently embedding into the process.
The party risk management needs to be very proactive in terms of how you actually ensure that security by design is embedded into every system, every project within the organization.
You could never have enough resources for all of it. Hence, becoming your trusted advisor and ensuring that you can speak to different stakeholders to ensure that they understand your policies, your processes, your baselines and standards, and they actually complying to those is quite important.
As a cybersecurity officer or office, you actually need to work with other people to deliver what you need to deliver for the organization.
So that’s where the trust comes from. The integrity comes from. So as a leader, that’s what you need to be. People need to trust you so that they’re able to perform, whether you do or not.
Q5. South Africa ranks sixth among the global cybercrime deaths. It also cost around 2.2 billion annually. The cybercrime catastrophe in the region is pretty high. What are the reasons for the trend? And is there a change in this? Is there a sense of employment? Is there no more policing down here?
One of the reasons, which is quite obvious is the lack of investment into the cyber security and environment. If you look at our budget, cyber security is to feature 0.02% budget of IT. In most organization, it was never a priority. It was always IT and how to better our systems and our tools.
But the pandemic changed that, obviously, with all these increased attacks that have been happening in South Africa, the CISOs, the business, the executives, the CEO, they now understand the importance of it.
And as much as we are paying technological debt of cybersecurity, but the improving as a country to ensure that, we are preparing for the global standard. Currently in South Africa, there is a cyber law that has just been passed. There’s a whole lot of things committees, forums, that we attending conferences, just to ensure that we all bettering ourselves.
Also lack of knowledge. In South Africa alone, not only do we have organizations that have the budget, we also have small organizations that don’t have the budget.
So you’ll find that in those committees in the forums that we have, we give advices, we partner with them to advise on what basic things they should have, as a minimum. Don’t just pretend that you want the help the matter of when are you ready.
Can you respond in these things should do. Knowledge sharing is quite important, which is something that we’re doing currently. And it’s working quite well.
And I must be honest, our controls and our standards are global. It’s a matter of which ones can you afford to implement. Or which ones can you afford to maintain. Because implementing is one thing, but in cybersecurity, you need maintain the status quo.
One minute, you could be very secure tomorrow, but not be secure because of a phishing email. So cyber awareness is quite important for all of us big or small organizations.
Q.6: Do you think the advancements in AI will play a crucial role in cybersecurity in 2023?
I believe that the cyber hackers literally are using AI to attack us. But how much are we using to combat that, from an organizational point of view is still in their infancy.
However, there are tools that are providing as AI capabilities. But how well are they integrated. Because AI needs to be integrated into other tools for you to make an informed decision or to then respond quite quickly.
AI will play a critical role and still plays a critical role into how we combat cyber crimes and fits within our organization. But how it’s implemented is the problem, and how it is actually being utilized within the organizations also quite important.
In my own organization, I mean, we’ve implemented a lot of AI, but even sitting in different tools, or it’s not integrated is not giving you the outcomes that you want. So also, the implementation, the architecture of it needs to be needs to be quite informed and understood.
In terms of the relevancy of it, it is quite critical into how we are currently performing as organizations. I mean, we could never combat all these threats that we have manually, there is no way.
With all the tools, we have source, all the technologies that we have for AI, we need that automation to actually integrate to other tools for me to make informed decisions that are quite crude from an executive interview. From a technical point of view, AI is perfect.
Q:7 What are the key metrics that you have in mind whenever you’re using a security tool or you’re going to invest in a security tool?
For me, it’s that integration of different tools. As a leader, it is essential to know what is going on What I should concentrate on so that when I communicate to the board, I know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s about making informed decisions regarding my reporting.
From my point of view, the board would want to be weighed would be predictions. Where would we suffer forward the most in the next six months? Then by the trends that are actually happening within the organization, I can actually anticipate that, based on what I see, looks like I need to allocate all my resources that are working on the green projects, to the red projects.
If we are implementing a new tool, most of the resources would be sitting in a project mode. But what is the use of implementing a new tool if your current environment is not up to date?
Hence, it is quite important for me to understand my greens, my oranges and my reds. I literally just need an executive dashboard, what is wrong, where is it wrong. And then I actually analyze on how to allocate budget and resources.