Staying Safe Online

Systematic research on how e-safety websites communicate information

This project looks at online safety by conducting an examination of Australian websites and evaluating their effectiveness from the users’ perspective. In particular, our interdisciplinary team will take a deep dive into investigating:

  • The content provided on Australian e-safety websites (highlighting any inconsistencies);
  • The usability of these e-safety sites; and
  • The effectiveness of Australian websites in promoting cyber-secure attitudes behaviours

This research is important given the increase in victims of cybercrimes in Australia and worldwide. The findings will be useful for Australian policymakers in their progress to help improve the cybersecurity of Australian citizens.

There is a plethora of e-safety websites designed to educate citizens best practice in personal cyber-security and how to be safe online, discourage cyber-criminal and upsetting behaviour (e.g., trolling, cyberbullying), and to help the users identify cyberscams. Best practice in cyber-security education is contested though, and there are divergent approaches.

It is important to consider the effectiveness of e-safety websites because, while there may be good intentions behind their development, they may not improve security outcomes, and might actually make the situation worse. For example, UK research has found that citizens who read e-safety websites, along with other materials that provide information on cyberscams, are more likely to become victims of cyberscams (Whitty, in press).

Such results are alarming given that government, industry and other organisations have been creating this content to promote personal responsibility for Internet safety in the hope to reduce the numbers of cyberscam victims.

To date, systematic research on how e-safety websites communicate information has been lacking.

This project directly addresses this gap. First, there are questions about how to best communicate messages. For example, the British government moved to a unified online response process, led by the NCSC (National Cyber Security Centre – the public facing body of GCHQ), because it identified inconsistent messaging as an issue during the 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack. Australia currently has not adopted a unified response, although there have been suggestions by politicians that this might be a useful strategy. Second, there are questions over the content of websites, including what issues are being covered by cyber-security websites, and what kinds of advice and support are offered.

Research Team

Funding

Seed Funding 2017