Encouraging Responsible Cybersecurity Culture within Society
Business and industry, governments and civil society are increasingly encouraging consumers and citizens to conduct transactions and participate in civic, social and public affairs online. Networked individuals are also organising activities from the grass roots using the Internet and related digital media.
The success of institutional and citizen-originated initiatives depends on the degree that networked individuals have the trust and confidence that they are adequately protected in cyberspace. They must be aware of risks, know how to use the Internet safely and securely, and have the time and inclination to take the necessary steps to do so.
The GCSCC is conducting research to find out more about the attitudes, beliefs and values of individual Internet users with respect to security and privacy, and what they understand as their cyber responsibilities. This will help determine whether users in general need more support with cybersecurity and identify demographic groups who may require particular assistance in accessing services or reassurance that cyberspace is safe to use with an awareness of risks to themselves and the larger public.
While it is important to realise that some Internet and social media users are not sufficiently aware of a variety of risks, it is important not to underestimate users in keeping them abreast and reminding everyone of the best security practices when conducting transactions online. Ideally, Internet users will develop a cybersecurity mind-set that enables them to place a priority on practices that protect their privacy and security in the course of everyday use.
Most individuals using the Internet expect to trust it as a utility that is safe to use without having to spend much time and effort on security and protecting their personal privacy. Most other utilities do not require as much user input, as safe practices are built into the infrastructure and taught from an early age. As cyber service providers are far from a point at which computing services can be provided as such a utility, users can be left vulnerable to avoidable cyber-attacks unless adequate measures are taken to protect them, through the efforts of themselves or others.
It is likely that the answer lies partly in making people more aware of online threats to their privacy and security and skilled in ways to protect themselves. Over-stating risks could be counterproductive as it could create a culture of fear around cyber space. In fact, experience online is one of the best means of building skills in security and an awareness of cyber risks. Fear and a lack of experience could lead particular groups of people to be less likely to use the Internet, cutting them off from benefits such as better access to education and a wide range of services. Understanding what consumers and households think of cyberspace is the first step in helping them adopt safer practices and best use the Internet and related digital media in ways that realise its benefits and minimise its risks.
Our research will compare knowledge and attitudes to responsibility, risks, security and privacy and best practice across different countries and track change over time. Understanding users is critical to developing cybersecurity technologies and policies, making it critical for this area of research to connect with other dimensions to create a safer and more secure Internet.
This Dimension is co-chaired by Professor Emeritus William Dutton, an Oxford Internet Institute (OII) and Oxford Martin Fellow, who was the first Professor of Internet Studies at the University of Oxford.