The Future of Cyber Safety: Could Artificial Intelligence Be The Silver Bullet?

Stay Safe Online Week 2017

Cyber safety: outsourcing to experts makes such sense!

Like most multi-tasking millennium mums, I’m a BIG fan of outsourcing: ironing, cleaning and gardening – it just makes such sense! Why not get an expert involved so you can focus on the things you love? Smart, I say!

But did you know that the future of cyber safety might just be heading the same way? Many technology experts and futurists including Ian Yip, McAfee® APAC’s CTO, believe that many of the decisions we make each day regarding our online safety could soon be made for us by digital assistants powered by artificial intelligence.

Sound a little crazy? Let me explain.

We’re human, after all.

An unfortunate reality of digital life is the fact that many of us have been hacked or scammed online, or know someone who has. But the truth is that almost all this pain could have been avoided if we had taken the necessary steps to protect ourselves and our families online. It is our ‘humanness’ that often gets us into trouble – our inconsistent and imperfect approach means we may take risks online without thinking, accidentally overshare or inadvertently click on a dodgy link.

But what if we could offload the management of our cyber safety to a true expert? An expert who is 100% organised, never forgets to renew security software, never uses the same password twice AND who can constantly analyse behaviour and immediately implement limits, should they be required?

Welcome to the future world of cyber safety digital assistants!!

Sounds good? Well, it could get even better… Imagine if your digital assistant, powered by artificial intelligence, had been programmed with the latest scientific research around brain and human development. Your loyal digital assistant could then interject at crucial points during your child’s interaction with digital content to educate them or it could tell them to perform a chore before allowing more online time. Or limit their screen time when scientifically-proven or parent-enforced limit has been reached. All the while keeping them safe online.

Sounds like every parent’s dream!!

No longer would technology be the enemy of committed parents. Computers set up with digital assistants could instead be a positive influence and assist committed parents to raise healthy, well-adjusted young people.

But we’re not there quite yet…

Before we get too excited, we need to remember that this paradise is still some time away. So, until that time, we need to embrace our ‘humanness’ and this means doing what we can to protect ourselves and our families online.

One of our biggest jobs as parents is to teach our kids how to independently navigate the complexities of life and this includes the online world. Although tempting, wrapping your offspring in cotton wool and keeping them away from risks is unfortunately not the best way to prepare them for the complications of the online world.

Instead we need to teach them to question what they see, dig deeper and take a moment to reflect before they act. These critical thinking skills will hold them in great stead and mean you don’t need to panic unnecessarily about new online threats – if they have the skills then they can be smart, safe online operators!

But we also need to practise what we preach! As parents, it is essential that we also model appropriate online behaviour and healthy digital habits. Psychologist Jocelyn Brewer believes that our generation of parents are ‘just as likely to be glued to their screens as their teenage offspring.’ And while we are checking work emails from the sporting field or playground, we are playing a ‘powerful role in (our) child’s social learning’ – modelling behaviour that we then spend much energy trying to rid our children of.

Stay Smart Online Week

This week is Stay Smart Online Week, an initiative by the Australian Government together with business and community groups to raise awareness about the ways people can protect themselves online. So, why not take a moment and do a quick audit on your personal cyber safety strategy? Here are my top tips to get you started:

1. Create complex passwords.

Creating strong, unique passwords is the best way to keep your personal and financial information safe online. This is especially true in the era of widespread corporate hacks, where one database breach can reveal tens of thousands of user passwords. Why not consider McAfee’s password manager the True Key™ app? It uses multiple authentication factors to sign you in – no need to remember anything!!

2. Secure your connections.

When at home or work, you probably use a password-protected router that encrypts your data. However, when you’re out you might use free, public Wi-Fi that is often unsecured – meaning a hacker can easily access your device or information. Consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) so you can connect safely from anywhere.

3. Keep your software up-to-date.

Mobile devices face new threats each day, such as risky apps and dangerous links sent by text (smishing). Make sure your security software is enabled and your software apps are up-to-date on your mobile, computers and other devices to ensure you have the latest security patches. Turn on automatic updates to avoid forgetting.

4. Keep your guard up.

Always be cautious about what you do online and which websites you visit. Make sure you know what to look out for. Incorrect spelling and/or grammar in website addresses often is a sign of illegitimate websites. To keep your defence up, use comprehensive security software like McAfee Total Protection, and make sure to back-up your data on a regular basis.

5. Be a selective sharer and practise safe surfing.

Be cautious about what you share online, particularly when it comes to your identity information. This includes online shopping and banking. Always make sure that the site’s address starts with “https” instead of just “http”, and has a padlock icon in the URL field. This indicates that the website is secure. Use safe search tools such as McAfee WebAdvisor to help you steer clear of risky websites.


Parenting in the digital age can definitely be complicated. As the first generation of digital parents, we are learning on the job – sometimes even making it up as we go. But help is on its way!! Artificial Intelligence will, without a doubt, transform the way we manage our online safety and, in my opinion, make a positive contribution to the next generation of cyber citizens.

Take care

Alex x


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