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25% of People in EMEA Prefer Cybersecurity Managed by AI

An online study of more than 10,000 respondents in EMEAi conducted by Palo Alto Networks and YouGov alongside Dr Jessica Barker, an expert in the human nature of cybersecurity, explores attitudes towards new cybersecurity technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), and how these technologies protect their digital way of life.

Just over a quarter (26%) of EMEA respondents would prefer their cybersecurity to be managed by AI rather than a human. Italy has the most confidence in relying on AI (38%), while in the UK only 21 percent of people prefer AI over humans to protect their digital way of life.

The research suggests that those who are more open to AI technologies have a positive outlook on the role cybersecurity plays in their day-to-day lives. Almost a third (29%) of respondents online who preferred their cybersecurity managed by AI feel having cybersecurity checks in place has a very positive impactiii on their overall online experience, compared to the combined average of 20 percent.

Just over a quarter (26%) of EMEA respondents would prefer their cybersecurity to be managed by AI rather than a human.

Greg Day, VP and CSO EMEA at Palo Alto Networks, comments on the findings: “AI is already playing a vital role in cybersecurity, helping to detect and prevent breaches with new capabilities that the human brain simply could not achieve. It is encouraging, therefore, to see the gap closing between AI- and human-managed cybersecurity technologies, and the positive attitude towards cybersecurity checks that comes with a preference for AI technologies is one we hope to see embraced by more people in the future. Humans are risk averse, yet innovation requires taking new steps, and many still see change as risk. Taking responsibility for data loss and keeping personal data secure is the first step in ensuring we are using best practice within a business, and education is key in helping respondents feel safer online.”

The study also uncovered mixed views on the perceived security of internet of things (IoT) technologies, such as smart home devices and wearables: 38 percent of EMEA respondents believe them to be secure, with a similar number (43%) thinking the opposite. However, this did vary across the region, with those in the UAE most trusting of IoT’s security (71% believe it to be secure), whereas a higher proportion in Germany (53%), France (48%), and the UK (46%) believe them to be insecure.

Topics like data privacy and ethics are becoming more mainstream, and Dr Jessica Barker says it’s not surprising to see hesitation in adopting new technologies like AI and IoT, commenting: “When any new technology emerges, there is often a reticence among many to embrace the change, even when it offers an improvement to our way of life. Telephones, trains and televisions were all a source of fear for the general public when they were first introduced.

Many people are unaware of the way in which AI and machine learning are already enabling our use of technology, protecting our data and preventing cyberattacks, largely because it is often non-invasive to the end-user. This can mean people feel hesitant about the concept of embracing AI, without realising that it is already a positive presence in their lives. It is interesting to note that IoT is considered insecure by the majority of participants, whereas most people feel that technology, in general, is helping them to be more secure online. This suggests that the technology industry needs to address security and privacy concerns surrounding IoT in a meaningful and transparent manner.”

Other key findings from the online research include:

  • While there is a generational divide when it comes to preferring cybersecurity managed by AI, it isn’t as polarising as expected, with Millennials showing a marginal preference (31%) compared to Baby Boomers (23%).iv
  • Cybersecurity self-reliance is a global trend with 54 percent of respondents taking responsibility for their personal data when online:
  • The divide between the younger (18-24) and older (55+) generations is more prominent here, with only 43 percent of the younger demographic taking responsibility for their own personal data compared to 58 percent of those aged 55 and above.
  • A quarter (25%) of respondents feel cybersecurity should be the responsibility of law enforcement, and 28 percent feel it is down to the government.v
  • The cybersecurity message is getting through to people; a majority of respondents (44%) agree that cybersecurity technologies give them the ability to spend less time worrying about personal data loss, versus the 14 percent who disagree.
  • 67 percent of respondents feel they are doing all they can to prevent the loss of their personal data:
  • This rises to 75 percent of respondents ages 55 and over and falls to 59 percent for 25- to 34-year-olds.
  • 77 percent of respondents in the UAE and France agree with this statement, while only 60 percent of those in Italy and Sweden agree.

Dr Barker adds: “Trust is so important in cybersecurity. People want to be actively engaged in better protecting themselves online, and they embrace technology that supports them in this. The knowledge acquired can then be transferred to other areas of their lives, most importantly, the workplace. It is interesting to see that older participants feel a greater sense of responsibility over their data than younger participants. There are a number of factors which could help explain this, one being that the older generation are more likely to have been exposed to cybersecurity training and practices in the work environment, and this could have influenced their mindset to be more security conscious. It could also be that the younger generation is more likely to regard security as a collective responsibility, as part of a culture that is more centred on sharing.”

“Trust is so important in cybersecurity. People want to be actively engaged in better protecting themselves online, and they embrace technology that supports them in this.”

Greg Day concludes: “The results of this study provide some key takeaways for businesses. It’s important that they take into account perceptions of technologies like AI and IoT when developing new products and services, as well as getting ahead of new threats targeting the next-generation networks they will rely on. Building and maintaining trusted capabilities will only be achieved through prioritising cybersecurity and data privacy, and communicating openly and honestly. Through applying these new technologies responsibly and adopting them into our day to day lives, we can create a world where each day is safer and more secure than the one before.”

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