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Cyber psychology has a logical place in Information Security Strategy

The “new” buzzword, cyber psychology, is on everyone’s lips. Many realize this is the missing piece in a systematic process regarding information security. Still, many are in the dark as to what it is and where does it fit in to the security strategy? Who´s responsible for it? And how big of a deal is it?

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Cyber Psychology is the science of the human interaction with the online world, the human behavior online and more. As information security is simply put, a method to ensure confidentiality, integrity and authentication, one can very easily get lost as to how cyber psychology comes in to effect in this methodology. The simple answer is – it doesn’t.

Yet it has everything to do with the expectation and desired effect with a successful systematic information security strategy. The reasons spells humans and risk.

Picture cyber security as the tool. Information Security is in this metaphor the instruction how to use this tool. Regardless of if we are talking compliance, process or other requirements, information security explains how to use the tool in accordance with business requirements. Right away you can see how we are starting to merge into an abstract area of security, labeled by many as the “soft topics”. Because when technology meet humans and their behaviors, we need policies, guidelines and instructions regarding how, why and what.

The effectiveness of any information security campaign is not about the tool, but how well you can embrace the instructions on how to use the tool and the awareness on how to use it optimally.

Where does the cyber psychology fit in?

Cyber Psychology is a fundamental part of the Cyber Safety area. This the logical outcome of a modern and mature strategy in security: Cyber Security, Information Security and Cyber Safety. In this third silo contains the true “soft issues” that is best explained and planed by behavior specialist. This is the foremost reason as to why you need a holistic approach to a modern and mature process in information security. Even legal and finance needs to be onboard in the planning and lifecycle of an information security strategy, as wells as management and others. In Cyber Safety is everything from netiquette (acceptable use online), online use/abuse and overall cyber psychology phenomena. Studies and research conclusively show that incidents in the undisputed majority is due to unaware insider human errors. And in an era where social media is the norm, a norm with no existing security culture worthy of the name, human behavior and attitudes formed on these platforms, then becomes a risk to business security infrastructure.

Who is responsible for Cyber Safety?

Let’s start with the business value. Is cyber psychology even something to worry about? The answer to this is easy: Yes, unequivocally yes. The risk of human behavior adopted online is a sure ticket to disaster. Our behavior on platforms with little or no security and privacy becomes the norm. And this becomes a risk when we transfer this behavior into our organizational infrastructure. A risk awareness process is not optional if you need to comply to security or legal requirements in relation to security or privacy. Or simply put, you need to teach the human how to use the tool to comply. Any modern security strategy needs the silo of cyber safety, risk awareness management in specific, as the human behavior is a key risk. It must be the main priority.

But who is responsible? This is where it gets trickier but really not. Logically this is something the CISO needs to be on top of. Ideally, business need to recruit a permanent behavior specialist to aid the CISO or CSO with an understanding of human behaviors as a risk. This must be permanent as risk behaviors and attitudes are like trends, ever morphing. But few have the budget for this. So logically this is a topic for the CISO. The CISO oversees strategic, operational, and budgetary aspects of data management and protection. And in data management and protection, humans are the frontline in protection of data as the unaware insider is the biggest risk. Logically, risk awareness management is the tool for your entire security infrastructure to ensure the protection of data, both technically and processual. No technical tool will ever manage to change behavior when you have the human aspect in the other corner.

 Or simply put, security is not something you have, but something you do.

Robert Willborg, CISO Junglemap Sweden
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