The Times (IE) – “New minister must get to grips with cybersecurity”

I am writing in this morning’s The Times (Ireland edition) on the state of the Ireland’s national cybersecurity strategy: “New minister must get to grips with cybersecurity” [behind a paywall, but you can contact me for a copy].

Final paragraph:

Mr Bruton needs to get to grips with the cybersecurity sector quickly as businesses throughout Ireland are vulnerable, as is our national reputation. At the next reshuffle, the taoiseach would do well to consider a junior minister overseeing not only cybersecurity, but online safety, data protection and digital innovation.

Open Letter on the Digital Age of Consent

I was delighted to help put this letter together, calling on the Government to stick with 13 as the ‘Digital Age of Consent’. Great to get support from so many eminent experts and leaders in this field, many thanks to all who put their name below.

Published here on Medium:  Open Letter on the Digital Age of Consent and reproduced in full here:

In relation to the Data Protection Bill, we note that the report of the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality, having studied this issue carefully, recommended setting the digital age of consent at 13. It is therefore of great disappointment to us that parties to that report have now tabled amendments contrary to that recommendation. As such, we call on the Minister and the Government to remain steadfast in their commitment to 13.

With regard to the current situation, Ireland already has a de facto digital age of consent set at 13. As research such as the EU Kids Online Project has shown, we already have many issues with under 13s using online services in spite of this restriction. Setting the digital age of consent at 16 will not solve these issues, in fact, it will only multiply them.

It is worth stressing that the ‘digital age of consent’ is a data protection issue, not a child safety one. Protecting children from targeted advertising is quite different from protecting them from cyberbullying or online predation. Using data protection law to achieve an online safety effect is, in our view, extremely misguided.

In that light, far too much energy has been wasted on this debate when we could have been talking about how to actually protect and educate children about their digital rights. Our children need a proper digital education and we are failing to deliver this.

What this debate has painfully highlighted is how disconnected many parents feel with regard to their children’s online activity. Rather than delivering a knee-jerk response to those fears, the Government should commit to a properly resourced campaign of parental digital education.

Setting the age of consent at 13 would ensure that social media companies continue their efforts to try to make their online spaces safe and appropriate for under 18’s. If the digital age of consent is set to 16, online platforms would be able to argue that their spaces are for adults only, and reduce protections accordingly. Put simply, the higher age gives parents an illusion of control while at the same time letting industry off the hook.

Finally, given how few viable technical solutions to age verification have been proposed during this debate, setting the digital age of consent to 16 will inevitably lead to more young people simply lying about their ages. Whether with or without their parents’ help, this probably the worst first lesson in digital education a child should ever receive. More to the point, this is unlikely to encourage a child to tell their parents if something bad happens to them when online.

As such, we, therefore, urge the Government and the Oireachtas to implement the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality in setting the digital age of consent at 13.

Yours, etc.

Dr Ciarán Mc Mahon, Director, Institute of Cyber Security

Ronan Lupton BL, Internet Content Governance Advisory Group

Ian Power, Executive Director, SpunOut.ie

Harry McCann, Founder, Digital Youth Council

Prof Brian O’Neill, Director of Research, Enterprise and Innovation, Dublin Institute of Technology

Mark Smyth, Senior Clinical Psychologist

Alex Cooney, CEO, CyberSafeIreland

Tanya Ward, CEO, Children’s Rights Alliance

Grainia Long, CEO, ISPCC Childline

Prof Joe Carthy, College Principal and Dean of Science, University College Dublin

Dr James O’Higgins Norman, Director, National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre, Dublin City University

Dr Vincent Mc Darby, Senior Clinical Psychologist

Ian O’Grady, Senior Counselling Psychologist, President-Elect Psychological Society of Ireland.

 

 

Submission on Transparency in Social Media

I am delighted to have been invited to give evidence at a Meeting of Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment. Transparency in political social media is of deep importance to democracy.

I was due to appear today, but due to time constraints, that will take place at a later date. This meeting is in relation to Deputy James Lawless’ Social Media Transparency Bill, as well as recent revelations regarding Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.

You can read my full submission here, and the main points of the executive summary are below:

  • Problematic issues in regulation social media have been known for some time, the era of self-regulation must come to an end
  • However, overly simplistic to ‘blame’ the online platforms for this, must be collaborative
  • Problem of fake or automated accounts is vast within social media
  • ‘Viral’ propagation of messages is quite rare, information generally cascades via a traditional ‘broadcast’ model
  • Misinformation not easily corrected, continues to be shared after being debunked
  • Hence easy for adversaries to push disinformation, sowing confusion
  • An environment has developed where it is difficult for citizens to know what is true and trustworthy
  • Politicians must improve own cybersecurity practices as a matter of urgency
  • Much of the content of the Bill has been pre-empted by policy changes by the online platforms in the last six months in political ad transparency
  • However, changes have yet to take effect – urge immediate roll-out here of political advertisement changes
  • While transparency in online political advertising is probably achievable, not clear that making bots illegal is feasible, suggest mandatory labelling by online platforms
  • Urge Government to invest in interdisciplinary research on these topics in local context
  • Urge progress of permanent Electoral Commission to oversee all political advertising
  • Urge Government to consider national factual information/education campaigns on online platforms

 

I will update this page later, once I’ve spoken at the Committee.

Cyber Security Lessons From Surviving An Earthquake #IRISSCON

Here’s the video of my presentation at IRISSCON, the 9th IRISSCERT Cyber Crime Conference in Dublin, Ireland, on the 24th November 2017. The full title of my talk is “Protecting What Matters: Cyber Security Lessons From Surviving An Earthquake” – abstract is below.

In this talk I am focussing on incident response in cybersecurity – in other words, how to respond in a crisis. Taking inspiration from Bruce Hallas’ ‘The Analogies Project’, and also theory of cyber securitization, I describe these events in relation to a very personal experience: when disaster struck during my recent honeymoon.

Check out the video below, where I describe how my wife and I survived an earthquake, you can survive a cyber attack!

 

 

 

Abstract
Not a week passes these days without another major cybersecurity event occurring. Yet some companies manage to handle these events well, and thrive, whereas others handle them poorly, and struggle to survive. In this talk I try to provide some insight into how cybersecurity incident response can improve by applying some lessons from my own experience. But not professional or technical experience. A couple of months ago, while on honeymoon on the Greek island of Kos, my wife and I experienced a 6.7 magnitude earthquake. (You may have heard me on Morning Ireland!). In this talk, I will attempt to explain how some life lessons from this event can be applied to cybersecurity incident response. I will talk about back-up procedure, crisis communications, and corporate culture. I’ll also talk about dealing with the media, coping with aftershocks and what to do when things go feral. In sum, if we survived an earthquake, you should be able to survive your next breach.

 

Psychology and social media: Watch out for these apps!

Here’s the video of my presentation at the Psychological Society of Ireland’s Annual Conference in Limerick, Ireland, on November 11th, 2017. The full title of the talk is ’10 years of psychology and social media: Watch out for these apps, for they come to take your jobs’.

The abstract is below, and a fully referenced paper will follow. Overall, the presentation is about the complex relationship between the study of psychology and social media.

As I have said before, the relationship between human psychology and our self-technologies, like social media, is a complex one, which deserves careful study. I feel that it is of great importance that research on psychological topics – which necessarily means social media – should be carried out with a strong focus on participant dignity and respect. Comments/queries welcome!

 

 

Abstract:

At the 2010 PSI Conference, I presented on what was an increasingly popular but then largely trivial pastime: Facebook. Today, I return with a more sobering message. In these uncertain times, social media is bound up with multiple crises of a psychological nature, be it cyberbullying, fake news, or radicalisation. Reviewing a decade of social media studies, and interpreting them in the light of Foucault, Danziger, Rose and other philosophers of the human sciences, I have three findings. Firstly, social media has profoundly changed the way we relate to ourselves and to each other: norms are shifting in developmental, interpersonal, clinical and many other psychological contexts. Secondly, social media studies are rapidly evolving and new methodologies threaten to render several areas of psychological research obsolete. Big data analysis of social media usage is moving into sensitive topics – including personality analysis and prediction of suicidal ideation. Finally, while we may struggle to keep pace with complex technological changes, I propose a number of clear strategies for navigating these volatile times. In a word, ethics.