In a previous job we used to sigh every time there was an ‘MGI’ (Management Good Idea), usually prompted by the CEO having read something on the ‘plane. I’m sure we can all recognise cognitive bias, or maybe not?…:
It’s a scenario commonly seen in today’s businesses: executives read headlines of major breaches by foreign adversaries out to pilfer customers’ social security numbers and passwords. They worry about the same happening to them and strategize accordingly – but in the text, they learn the breach was in a different industry, of a different size, after different data.
This incident, irrelevant to the business, distracted leaders from threats that matter to them.
It’s an example of availability bias, one of many cognitive biases influencing how security and business teams make choices that keep an organization running. Availability bias describes how the frequency with which people receive information affects decisions. As nation-state attacks make more headlines, they become a greater priority among people who read about them.
“At the organizational level, we have major decision-makers deciding how much to spend on cybersecurity solutions,” explains Dr. Margaret Cunningham, principal research scientist at Forcepoint and author of “Thinking about Thinking: Exploring Bias in Cybersecurity with Insights from Cognitive Science.” These execs may be aware of more frequent threats like phishing, but the real problem is they’re interpreting risk based on what’s available in today’s news cycle.