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Risk and Digital Security: THe perception versus reality and the cognitive biases of online protection.
Paul Robert Maskall

Last modified: 2017-10-23


Abstract word count: 298
The feeling of security and our intrinsic perception of risk is an aspect that is both fundamental to our individuality, but also to how we make the inherent decisions necessary to further our own or others wellbeing, but security is just that, a ‘feeling’. Our sense of risk is calculated by a series of trade-offs, contributed by what we associate our individual sense of value to, and what could positively or negatively effect that wellbeing, whether financially, physically or mentally. Our sense of risk however, is plagued with cognitive biases, therefore our perception is very rarely ever based on the reality, meaning that as a society we are inherently bad at efficiently making meaningful trade-offs. (Schneier, B 2008) With this in mind, this is where digital security and identity directly counteracts with that of our natural affinity to associate value to our more tangible assets and possessions. Almost universally, individuals and businesses alike, do not associate the appropriate level of value, therefore do not perceive the risk to the data that we store, or that of the information that we actively disseminate out about ourselves. One of our cognitive biases, the availability heuristic, illustrates that we assign the probability of risk of an event or threat, based on how many examples we can bring to mind. (Sunstein, CR 2004) We watch in the media that cybercrime and fraud is happening constantly, but only to the larger organisations, so when we associate risk, we naturally think that it will not happen to us as an individual or smaller business, because of the examples that we can bring to mind. The reality is that cybercrime and fraud is one of the most pervasive threats to multiple aspects of our wellbeing but sits perfectly just outside our cognitive reasoning of risk. 

Schneier, B (2008) The Psychology of Security (Part 1),
Sunstein, C.R., (2004) Precautions Against What? The Availability Heuristic and Cross-Cultural Risk Perceptions

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