Cybersecurity Communications Strategies

Presented by Sky Marsen and Robert Biddle as a part of the 2020 Serene-risc Workshop on The State of Canadian Cybersecurity Conference: Human-Centric Cybersecurity.

About the presentation

Online security and privacy are now of critical importance to organizations and to society, and there is a need for technology experts to offer guidance.  Such experts, however, are often unequipped to provide this guidance in an effective and accessible manner to managers, clients, or end-users. In the field of communication studies, various approaches  have been developed that can assist, such as  Issues Management and Crisis Communication. Our presentation will first outline some of the basics from these approaches, such as the need for a fast response with actionable advice, the ability to identify the needs of  key audiences, and the skills to select appropriate genres to reach these audiences and ensure paths for feedback. While these strategies are well-known, we speculate that in cybersecurity particular aspects need to be specifically addressed, so next we will seek audience participation to explore these aspects. What are the distinct challenges involved in communicating about cybersecurity? What strategies have proven successful or have failed? What theoretical perspectives might be especially applicable? Our longer-term plan is to develop communications strategies specific to cybersecurity, which will provide tools to help experts to better play their role.

About the speaker

Sky Marsen, PhD, has an educational background in communication and applied linguistics. Her expertise lies in organizational communication, professional writing and public relations. She is interested in how language is used in professional contexts and has researched and taught a variety of related subjects, including the ways organizations manage crisis, and perceptions of technology in society and popular culture. Her approach is informed by discourse analysis, narrative theory, and semiotics. In addition to her academic work, she regularly advises professionals and scientists internationally on communicating with the public, and has worked with scientists at Caltech and the University of Southern California on publicizing their research. She is Associate Dean of Learning and Teaching and the coordinator of the Media and Communication program at Flinders University, Australia. Dr. Robert Biddle is Professor of Computer Science and Cognitive Science at Carleton University, and also Director of the Graduate Program on Human-Computer Interaction. His primary research area for the last 15 years has been human issues in cybersecurity. This work has stressed the role of user understanding and behavior relating to cybersecurity, and has shown the importance of better design and communication to avoid threats and support defences.  He has served as Program Chair of the premier annual conference on Usable Privacy and Security, has work on human issues in security for two cross-Canada research networks (NSERC ISSNet, and the Graphics Animation New Media NCE), and worked on projects with companies in Canada and the US, and with the Government of Canada.