How to use empathy as a cyber security tool

15 August 2017

At this year's Black Hat conference, Alex Stamos Facebook's Chief Security Officer delivered the keynote speech, calling on cyber security professionals to have more empathy with the users of systems who find themselves the targets of cyber attacks. He suggested the cyber security community should focus less on “stunt hacks” and more on understanding what makes the users of technology tick and giving them products that were easier for them to use securely.

This argument goes to the heart of the issue about good cyber security being about people and technology working together. It’s interesting how much empathy is actually crucial to good cyber security and how we often use empathy without even thinking about it.  

If we really used empathy more consciously and systematically we would be able to:

  • design better training, culture and awareness programme that really engaged the target audience;
  • better defend systems and data by really understanding what makes our adversaries tick and attack our systems in the ways they do;
  • predict how adversaries are going to develop their targeting and tactics over time;
  • dissuade more young people from getting into cybercrime and instead pursue cyber careers on the right side of the law.

Getting those already in the profession to use empathy more is only part of the answer though; the greater and more fundamental challenge is encouraging more diversity in the profession. Not only does a more diverse cyber security workforce widen the pool of people able to empathise with different groups, it also informs and challenges those of us already in the profession to develop our ways of thinking. And this can only be a good thing.

To find out more about how to use empathy as a cyber security tool please get in touch.

James Hampshire | Senior Cyber Security Manager
Profile | +44 (0)20 7804 3683


More articles by James Hampshire



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