Research Dimensions

Encouraging Responsible Cyber 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 social media.

For these institutional and citizen-originated initiatives to be successful, networked individuals need to be confident 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 Centre is conducting research to find out more about individual users’ attitudes and beliefs 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 cyber security, and identify demographic groups who may require particular assistance in accessing services or reassurance that cyberspace is safe to use.

We suspect that individual users are often insufficiently aware of the risks and of best security practices when conducting transactions online.

Many citizens see the Internet as a utility and hope to be able to use it safely without having to spend much time and effort on updates. Most other utilities do not require such 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 will be provided in such a utility state, users can be left vulnerable to cyber attacks unless adequate measures are taken to protect them, by themselves or others.

It is likely that the answer lies only partly in making people more aware of security threats. Over-stating risks could be counterproductive as it could create a culture of fear around cyber space. This could turn certain groups of people away from the Internet, particularly those who have little experience online, cutting them off from benefits such as better access to education and services. Understanding what consumers and citizens think of cyberspace is the first step in helping them make best use of it.

Our research will compare knowledge and attitudes to responsibility, risks, security and privacy and best practice across different countries and over time. Understanding users is critical to developing cyber security technologies and policies, making it critical for this area of research to connect with other dimensions.

This dimension is co-chaired by Professor Angela Sasse, Director of the Science of Cyber Security Research Institute, UCL, and Professor William Dutton, Professor of Internet Studies, University of Oxford.

our dimension leads on cyber culture