The Cyber5 Podcast

Forensic Cyberpsychology: How Anonymity Normalizes the Abnormal

Episode 40 | March 2, 2021

In episode 40 of the Cyber5, we are joined by Professor of Cyberpsychology and former Producer of CSI Cyber, Mary Aiken. Mary discusses the psychology of online behavior, particularly with regard to social media and how it plays a critical role leading to extremist ideology.

Here are the 5 Topics We Cover in This Episode:

1) Defining Cyberpsychology as it Relates to Cyber Space: (01:00-05:52)

Cyberpsychology is the study of the impact of technology on human behavior. We maintain that human behavior can fundamentally change or mutate in cyber context. Key constructs include ODE, or the Online Disinhibition Effect, which dictates that people will perform actions in a cyber context they would not normally do in the real world. In addition, anonymity is a powerful psychological driver online and while some argue that online anonymity is a fundamental right, they are not accurate; it’s an invention of the internet and behavior is evolving at the speed of technology.

2) Defining Cyberspace for Corporate Enterprise: (05:24-09:52)

In 2016, NATO ratified cyberspace as an environment, acknowledging battles of the future will take place on land, sea, air, and computer networks. In addition to thinking about how the military fights these future battles, it’s also important for enterprises to understand how their businesses and employees operate online and address various threat actors.

3) Psychology Evolving as Extremism Transitions Online: (09:52-12:00)

People are prone to write more adversarial thoughts online because they are not receiving the same micro-expressions, body language, proximity, and feedback they would receive in person. Mary feels addiction does not exist with technology because we rely on it just like we rely on air or water; however, we have to play catch up as a society for how to recognize and curb aggressive online behavior.

4) Online Safety Technology: (12:00-16:00)

While a lot of threat intelligence is geared toward the confidentiality, integrity, and availability (C.I.A.) of data, systems, and networks, it does not focus on what it means to be human. Many in the business community, including Paladin Capital, are starting to invest in safety technologies and services that combat the relationship between the C.I.A. of data systems and the behavioral aspects of cybersecurity, such as insider threat, harassment, cyber bullying, and disinformation to deliver holistic security capabilities.

5) Extremist Behavior Online Filtering into Violence in the Real World: (16:00-21:00)

When people are constantly circulating in echo chambers online, fueled by false information and hate speech, combined with ODE, this has huge potential for violence in the real world, as displayed during the Capitol Hill riots in 2021. It’s going to be critical for enterprises to monitor cyberspace from a brand reputation perspective, and not just for negative sentiment against products and services. It will also be critical to understanding the sentiment behind how employees behave in a manner that is not detrimental to the brand’s image.

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