Dr Mary Aiken, Professor of Cyberpsychology, Capitol Technology University USA & Professor of Forensic Cyberpsychology, University of East London UK

By Yun Xuan Poon

Women in GovTech Special Report 2021.

Dr Mary Aiken is Professor of Cyberpsychology, Chair of the Department of Cyberpsychology at Capitol Technology University USA, and Professor of Forensic Cyberpsychology, Department of Law & Criminology at the University of East London UK.

How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation. 

My current focus is on online safety technologies or "Safety Tech". I am an academic advisor to the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) - we are seeking to provide technology solutions to technology-facilitated online harms.

Safety Tech providers develop technology or solutions to facilitate safer online experiences and protect users from harmful content, contact or conduct. In March 2020 we published the findings of our 'Safer Technology, Safer Users: The UK as a World-Leader in Safety Tech' report on behalf of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS).

The report highlights significant growth within the UK sector, with the number of dedicated online safety firms doubling in the last five years and investment increasing significantly over the same period.

What was the most impactful project you worked on this year? 

This year we have conducted research in the US, we found that an online safety technology or ‘Safety Tech’ sector, which complements the existing cybersecurity industry is also gaining prominence there.

This research report has found evidence of an emerging and thriving US SafetyTech sector delivering solutions to facilitate safer online experiences and protect people from psychological risks, criminal dangers and online harm.

Importantly, Safety Tech innovations also have the capacity to protect people from the corrosive effects of misinformation, online harassment, discrimination, and extremism which increasingly threaten civil society.

What is one unexpected learning from 2021? 

In our US Safety Tech research, we found evidence of commercial organizations with technical solutions that help with Identifying physical threats in real-time using technologies such as computer vision techniques, algorithms and applications, for example, detecting potential violent incidents and providing real-time responses, we were able to build a new classification into our Safety Tech taxonomy, described as "Cyber-Physical"

What’s your favourite memory from the past year?

I presented on Safety Tech at a UK G7 event - and it was very well received - that was very motivating and enjoyable.

What’s a tool or technique you’re excited to explore in 2022?

It is critical that data, information, systems and networks are protected from cyber-attacks and are robust, resilient and secure. However, it is equally critical that the people who operate and use these systems are psychologically robust, resilient, safe and secure.

Therefore, it is the combination of cybersecurity and Safety Tech that will deliver optimum protection. I am excited to explore new tools and technologies such as NISOS managed Intelligence solutions which aim to protect what it is to be human online.

What are your priorities for 2022? 

In January 2022 we will be publishing our US Safety Tech research will help to officially designate the US Safety Tech sector and ecosystem. I would also be interested in investigating and exploring Safety Tech ecosystems elsewhere for example, in Asia.

Who are the mentors and heroes that inspire you? 

I am inspired by people who work in Law Enforcement and dedicate their lives to making the world a safer place - the Executive Director of Europol Catherine De Boole is inspirational, she wrote the forward to a recent research report The Cyber Blue Line which I co-authored with my good friend, colleague and mentor Dr Philipp Aman Head of Strategy at Europol.

My colleague Doug Witschi who works in Cybercrime Threat Response at INTERPOL Singapore is also a great colleague and mentor - this year we collaborated on an academic book chapter titled "Cyberchondria, Coronavirus, and Cybercrime: A Perfect Storm" .

What gets you up in the morning?

All things cyber - and my dogs.