Using the Fear of Sharks to Drive Home the Point About Cybersecurity Threats

Technology > Security

Our fear of sharks can give us a hint in how to protect our data privacy, IoT, etc / Photo by: SarahRichterArt via Pixabay


Now, you may be wondering what sharks have anything to do with technology related to the security of the internet or electronic gadgets. But Melanie Ensign, the current security and privacy communications lead at Uber, brought up this interesting concept, and it might be the surprising solution to some of the cybersecurity concerns that we have to deal with. In an article posted on the website, she explained that the inherent fear of sharks that people have may be the key to understanding and managing cybersecurity threats.

What we can’t see, we generally fear more, that is one of the main reasons why sharks are scary for humans. Not just the fact that it can literally tear you to shreds or that the average length of a great white is 11 feet to 16 feet (with some even reaching 20 feet), but also because it’s in the water and you can’t see anything beyond a few meters below the surface makes it all the more terrifying. This is what can be translated to the way we should perceive cybersecurity and how we handle threats. That our fear that there may a great white shark lurking in the water so that we won’t readily dive in should also carry over to when there are warning signs that tell us our computers are compromised. But, in a 2016 study, it actually revealed that 22 percent to 87 percent of the time, people disregarded warning signs when they were using their gadgets, depending on what they were doing at the time.

Ensign stated, “If we can’t get people to focus on the right thing, because their brains are being flooded by these peripheral experiences, we’re going to have a difficult time helping them to get to the right conclusions.” Her main solution for this is “cage diving.”

Just like people who have an inherent fear of sharks start to overcome it after being in the water with the animals within the safety of a steel cage and truly appreciating how they behave. The main way to motivate people to action is by providing a convincing threat to the relevant stakeholders so that they can see first-hand how dangerous malware and viruses can be.