Fraud Management & Cybercrime , Governance & Risk Management , Leadership & Executive Communication

Why Today's Security Rhetoric Is Harmful and Must Change

Expunge Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt From Security Discussions, Says Victoria Baines
Victoria Baines, visiting fellow, Bournemouth University

In her latest book, "Rhetoric of InSecurity: The Language of Danger, Fear and Safety in National and International Contexts," academic Victoria Baines questions the imagery and rhetoric we use to communicate safety and security issues and their impact on the workforce.

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Baines, a former law enforcement intelligence analyst, sees similarities between the language, rhetorical techniques and imagery that governments, vendors and criminals use to persuade us do something, such as amplifying threats or "talking about cyber as being catastrophic, devastating, or some kind of existential crisis. We're scaring the hell out of people, but we're not necessarily giving them the tools and the information that they need to protect themselves," she says.

Baines suggests we should learn from the way public health messaging engages people, and ask, "What three things do individual citizens and small businesses need to do to protect themselves and all the people that they do business with?" She emphasizes the need to "empower people and make them feel more capable, because they're clearly capable of protecting themselves and others when it comes to a disease."

In a video interview with Information Security Media Group, Baines discusses:

  • The rhetorical techniques that governments, vendors and criminals all use to make an impact;
  • Why cybersecurity is rife with "fear, uncertainty and doubt" and how we can change the rhetoric of the whole industry;
  • Why we should look to public health messaging and humor to empower the workforce.

Previously, Baines was the trust and safety manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Facebook, and before that she was responsible for threat analysis and industry outreach at Europol's European Cybercrime Centre's strategy and prevention team. Prior to that, she was principal analyst at the U.K. Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center, a command of the National Crime Agency, where she was responsible for the U.K.’s threat assessment of online child abuse.

About the Author

Anna Delaney

Anna Delaney

Director, Productions, ISMG

An experienced broadcast journalist, Delaney conducts interviews with senior cybersecurity leaders around the world. Previously, she was editor-in-chief of the website for The European Information Security Summit, or TEISS. Earlier, she worked at Levant TV and Resonance FM and served as a researcher at the BBC and ITV in their documentary and factual TV departments.

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