Martin Luther King said ‘I have a dream’, not ‘I have a plan’
– Simon Sinek
Engaging end users using marketing, psychology and safety theory.
About Geordie Stewart
His award winning masters thesis at the Royal Holloway Information Security Group examined information security awareness from a fresh perspective as a marketing and communications challenge. In his regular speaking appearances at international information security conferences such as RSA, ISACA and ISSA he challenges conventional thinking on risk culture and communication.
In addition to senior security management roles in large UK organisations Geordie writes the security awareness column for the ISSA international journal.
Are humans rational? When we see computer users to silly things which place themselves or their information at risk its easy to take a view that people are illogical. The problem is that logic can’t be examined separately from perception.
There is significant debate within psychology literature as to the extent to which humans can be described as rational. Rationality is sometimes described as the ability for individuals to select the “best” option when confronted with a set of choices. The best option is also referred to as a “value maximising” option when the most benefit is obtained for the least expenditure of resources or exposure to risk.
The problem is that people routinely fail to select a “value maximising” option and exhibit apparently illogical behaviour. Commonly, an option mathematically modelled as the best choice by the technical experts isn’t the choice chosen by information system users when responding to risk.Details
One of the problems with the current approach to information security awareness is that methodologies such as ENISA are detailed about the logistics of planning security awareness but don’t have much to say about the content of security awareness.
So, how would you determine what information an audience needs to know so that they can manage the risks they face? Mental models offer a structured way of approaching risk communications rather than just “broadcasting facts”.
A mental model is a pattern of understanding held by an individual. It consists of what beliefs they hold, the strength of those beliefs and the connection between beliefs. Safety experts note that when risk communication takes place the audience will have some degree of pre-existing knowledge which forms their mental model:
“…for most risks, people have at least some relevant beliefs, which they will use in interpreting the communication. They may have heard some things about the risk in question. It may remind them of related phenomena.” (Morgan et al 2002)Details