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Dr. Harrison Nnaji, Group Chief Information Security Officer, First Bank of Nigeria Ltd & its Subsidiaries

Dr. Harrison Nnaji: Responsible Leadership in Cybersecurity – Safeguarding the Digital Frontier – GCISO, FirstBank of Nigeria

In an age where digital threats loom around every corner of the web, responsible leadership in cybersecurity is indispensable. Cybersecurity leaders serve as the guardians of digital assets and data, ensuring not only the protection of sensitive information but also the fortification of a resilient and secure digital environment. This article explores the importance of responsible cybersecurity leadership, the skills necessary for success, effective leadership strategies, and the evolving landscape of cybersecurity, drawing learnings from the global and African contexts.

The Role of Responsible Cybersecurity Leaders

Responsible leadership in cybersecurity goes beyond just implementing security protocols, processes, and technologies; it instills accountability and responsibility for cybersecurity practices throughout an organization. The responsibilities of such leaders encompass:

  1. Understanding the business: The responsible cyber security leader must dedicate time to understanding the business of the organization, the business terrains, exigencies, applicable regulations, standards, and intricacies.
  2. Understanding the digital assets inventory: The cyber security leader must develop a comprehensive assets list for the organization covering technologies, products, systems, services, and intellectual properties. The assets should then be categorized to understand the contribution to the business and the impact of a breach or unavailability of each / category of the listed assets.
  3. Identifying Threats: Responsible leaders possess a keen ability to identify emerging cybersecurity threats, recognizing that awareness is the first line of defense. Yes, the cyber security leaders must understand the prevailing threats and the exposure of the assets or assets categories to the threats. This must also be a recurring activity to capture emerging threats and the metamorphotic stages of established threats.
  4. Understanding the Impact of Threats: They comprehend the potential consequences of cyber threats and their implications on the organization’s operations, reputation, and financial health. This is critical as it underpins the practice of prioritization of resources and interventions.
  5. Taking Appropriate Actions: Responsible leaders must take decisive actions to protect businesses against threats, implementing security measures, processes, practices, and protocols to mitigate risks. The strong recommendation is that you adopt a revolving and evolving strategy to ensure that all assets are protected based on their criticality.
  6. Defense Against Advanced Threats: As technology advances, so do the threats. Responsible leaders focus on designing and developing security policies as well as implementing innovative security solutions that can defend against advanced and evolving threats.
  7. Rapid Response: In the dynamic world of cybersecurity, swift response to threats is a basic requirement. Responsible leaders lead their teams to respond quickly and effectively to cyber incidents. This will help the organization to prevent the higher consequence of poor, disoriented, or delayed response.
  8. Employee Development: They work with employees to develop and reinforce crucial cybersecurity skills, fostering a culture of security awareness within the organization. Depending on the construct of the organization, this should be extended to the cyber security team, the rest of the organization, third parties, partners, and the customer community.
  9. Strategic Planning: Responsible leaders assist their organizations in devising a comprehensive cyber security strategy, policies, and standards to safeguard digital assets from both internal and external threats. Haphazard, ad hoc, and disconnected cyber practice can only undermine the capacity of the organization to defend against cyber threats.
  10. Engagement with the C-Suite: They actively engage with the C-suite, regulators, and strategic partners to foster trust and communicate with the rest of the stakeholders, ensuring alignment between cybersecurity initiatives and organizational goals.
  11. Vision and Objectives: They collaborate with business executives to develop a shared vision, objectives, and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that align with the organization’s mission.
  12. Promote Business: The responsible cyber security leader has to actively evolve from a control and governance officer to a business promoter, unleashing the upside of risks by enabling the organization to take more profitable risks safely. This role endears the cyber security leader to the rest of the business community quicker than the use of alarms and alarms.
  13. Cost and Budget Management: The responsible cyber security leader must also ensure optimal use of resources – leveraging horizontal and vertical scaling to maximally extract value from the investments.

Skills of Responsible Cybersecurity Leaders

Effective cybersecurity leaders possess a range of skills, including:

  • Sharp Technical Skills: A deep understanding of cybersecurity technology, landscapes, and concepts.
  • Problem Solving: Creative solutions to address complex cybersecurity challenges.
  • Innovation: The capacity to work within budget constraints and find innovative solutions.
  • Business Acumen: The ability to align cybersecurity goals with broader business objectives.
  • Interpersonal and Team-building Skills: Effective communication and collaboration within the organization.
  • Communication Skills: Clear and concise communication with both technical and non-technical stakeholders.
  • Management Skills: The capability to manage teams, resources and stakeholders.
  • Analytical Skills: The ability to assess risks and make informed hypothesis and decisions.
  • Compliance-related Skills: Knowledge of legal and regulatory compliance in the cybersecurity field.
  • Stakeholder Collaboration Skills: Proficiency in collaborating with a wide range of groups, from board members to IT teams, to align security strategies with organizational goals.
  • Ever-learning Skills: The capacity and capability to continuously learn, including the emerging technologies like 5G, augmented/virtual reality, quantum computing, artificial intelligence, neural/deep learning, machine learning and the evolving sophistication of the cyber threats landscape.

Strategies for Responsible Cybersecurity Leadership

Responsible cybersecurity leaders employ effective strategies, including:

  • Setting Clear Expectations and Standards: Establishing a culture of clarity, where cybersecurity expectations and standards are well-defined and communicated.
  • Inclusive, evolving, and interactive: Adopt a strategy that is open to continuous interrogation and modifications to ensure persisting relevance to the aspirations of the organization.
  • Navigating Paradoxical Tensions: Balancing the need for robust security with the necessity for operational efficiency and user-friendliness.

The Importance of Responsible Leadership in Cybersecurity

The importance of responsible leadership in cybersecurity cannot be overstated, for several reasons:

  • Protection of Sensitive Information: Responsible leaders understand the critical nature of the information they protect, including personal data, financial information, and intellectual property.
  • Risk Management: They excel at assessing and managing risks, making informed decisions to mitigate potential threats and minimize the damage caused by cyber incidents.
  • Compliance and Legal Obligations: Responsible leaders ensure their organizations comply with relevant laws and standards, including data protection regulations and industry-specific requirements.
  • Ethical Considerations: Ethical decision-making is a cornerstone of responsible leadership, encompassing the responsible use of surveillance technologies and adherence to ethical hacking practices.
  • Building a Security Culture: Responsible leaders foster a culture of security, promoting awareness, training, and proactive cybersecurity practices among employees.
  • Collaboration and Information Sharing: Recognizing the importance of collaboration and information sharing to create a collective defense against cyber threats.
  • Investment in Technology and Talent: Making strategic investments in cybersecurity technologies and personnel to maintain a strong cybersecurity posture.
  • Incident Response and Resilience: Prioritizing incident response and resilience, with the development and testing of incident response plans.
  • Transparency and Communication: Open and transparent communication about cybersecurity measures, incidents, and efforts to address security challenges.
  • Global Security Collaboration: Actively engaging in global collaborations to combat cross-border cyber threats and contribute to the overall security of the digital ecosystem.

If you’ve reached this point, here are some additional tips for you:

21 Crucial Cybersecurity Tips and Best Practices for Your Business and Personal Security

In today’s digital age, cybercrime stands out as one of the most rapidly growing threats worldwide, impacting businesses across all industries. No business wants to see its name in headlines due to a security breach. To safeguard your company or firm from these threats, it’s imperative to stay updated on the latest cybersecurity tips and best practices.

Cybersecurity, however, is a dynamic challenge as cybercriminals continuously seek new ways to exploit security vulnerabilities. Nevertheless, there are several cybersecurity tips that can significantly reduce your risk and help you prevent cyberattacks, such as below: –

  1. Keep Software Up-to-Date: Software updates often serve three key purposes: adding new features, fixing known bugs, and enhancing security. Stay protected by always running the latest stable software version to guard against security vulnerabilities.
  2. Maintain Hardware Up-to-Date: Outdated computer hardware may not support the latest security upgrades. Keeping your hardware up-to-date ensures a faster response to cyber threats.
  3. Beware of Suspicious Emails: Avoid opening emails that appear suspicious, as they might be phishing scams attempting to steal your personal information or introduce malicious software. Never open attachments or click on links in such emails.
  4. Verify Links Before Clicking: Always double-check links before clicking on them. Hover your cursor over links to reveal the target URL and ensure it’s safe.
  5. Use Secure File-Sharing Solutions for Data Encryption: If you regularly exchange confidential information, employ a secure file-sharing solution. Traditional email is not secure for sensitive documents. Secure file exchange options automatically encrypt files, offering protection against data breaches and man-in-the-middle attacks.
  6. Utilize Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware Software: Connectivity to the internet leaves systems vulnerable to malware. Reduce this risk by installing both anti-virus and anti-malware software on your computers.
  7. Deploy a VPN for Privacy: Enhance network security and privacy with a Virtual Private Network (VPN). VPNs encrypt your connection, safeguarding your data from prying eyes, even your internet service providers.
  8. Strengthen Your Passwords: Invest time in creating strong, unique passwords for your accounts. Tools like “” can help gauge password strength.
  9. Disable Bluetooth When Not in Use: Turn off Bluetooth when it’s not necessary to prevent potential hacking threats. Hackers can exploit Bluetooth connections to steal sensitive data.
  10. Enable 2-Factor Authentication: Many platforms offer 2-factor authentication for added security. This feature provides a second level verification of your identity when accessing your account, minimizing unauthorized access.
  11. Remove Adware: Eliminate adware from your systems to protect your privacy. The right tools can help remove adware and unwanted programs.
  12. Verify HTTPS on Websites: Always check for HTTPS on websites. It ensures secure information transfer between your browser and the site’s server.
  13. Store Important Information Securely: Keep important information in secure locations inaccessible to unauthorized users when storing it online.
  14. Scan External Storage for Viruses: External storage devices are susceptible to malware. Scan these devices for viruses before using them to prevent malware spread.
  15. Avoid Public Networks: Public networks are risky as you share them with unknown users. Use a VPN or avoid public networks when handling sensitive data.
  16. Reject Complacency: Avoid the “secure enough” mentality. There’s no such thing as being overly secure. Continuously invest in security upgrades and interventions.
  17. Invest in Security Upgrades: Embrace security upgrades when available to avoid costly consequences associated with security breaches.
  18. Back Up Important Data: Regularly back up essential data to the cloud or local storage. This safeguards data in case of loss due to a security breach.
  19. Employee Training: Ensure your employees are well-trained and consistently follow security practices. A single mistake from an improperly trained employee can jeopardize the entire security system.
  20. Use HTTPS on Your Website: Encrypt information transfer between visitors and your web server by enabling HTTPS with an SSL certificate on your website.
  21. Employ “White Hat” Hackers: Consider hiring “white hat” hackers or bug bounty hunters, who can expose vulnerabilities to improve cybersecurity. They help you identify and fix risks you might not be aware of.


Responsible leadership in cybersecurity is vital for protecting sensitive information, managing risks, ensuring compliance, fostering ethical practices, and building a resilient and secure digital environment. As technology evolves, so must the leadership practices to effectively address the challenges posed by cyber threats. Cybersecurity leaders play a crucial role in maintaining the security and stability of the digital frontier, safeguarding organizations, individuals, and nations in an increasingly connected world.

About the Author:

This article is written by Dr. Harrison Nnaji, Group Chief Information Security Officer, First Bank of Nigeria Ltd & its Subsidiaries. The CIOWorld magazine’s awardee for The Most Influential CISOs of the Year 2023.