Respect In Security: Cybersecurity’s anti-harassment movement

A consortium of cybersecurity specialists launched on Tuesday an initiative to encourage companies to implement preventive security measures to end abusive online behavior experienced by workers.

Respect In Security, launched by Lisa Forte from Red Goat Cyber Security and Trend Micro’s Rik Ferguson on July 14 on Twitter, is a long overdue plan that focuses on exposing online harassment in the cybersecurity industry while raising awareness towards the true scale bullying has within the sector.  

The plan was established to highlight the behavior’s effect on employees, and to give current and potential victims the knowledge that such industries do not encourage nor support harassment in any form. 

Noticeably some of the plan’s main principles directly address various aspects of cyber-harassment.

It stands against abusive behavior by protecting the identity of any employee reporting any form of harassment, making the reporting path public and discussing it with employees, and to not ignore any form of harassment.

As for the remainder of the movement’s principles, the initiative’s Twitter account revealed that all seven principles will later be unveiled on their website.

The initiative was announced after Lisa Forte – one of the main leading voices against cybersecurity issues – said that she received unsolicited explicit content from official accounts on LinkedIn and aggressive threats on social networking platforms Instagram and Twitter. 

It is worth mentioning that despite the plan’s objective to target any kind of harassment, it does not address any abuse sent by any account created anonymously. 

The movement enjoyed major support on Twitter, as it will most likely guide employees towards structural changes in the form of collective actions, which will eventually push and inspire individuals to step up and take actions against harassment.

The battle between social media giants and cyber-harassers slightly paved the way to a safer online environment, which set the first stone leading to the foundation of Respect in Security.

Earlier in July, social media titans took to action to try and minimize damage caused by cyber-attacks such as the latest harassment targeting women on their platforms, followed by several cyber-attacks on immigrants and other minorities.

To deal with users’ harassment exposure, these platforms adopted a mixture of automated detection tools and human moderators to expose and deal with harassment. Automated detection tools alert the moderator to review and report any cyber bullying behavior.

For example, Sri Lanka witnessed cyber-harassment inspired by rumors spread online, explicitly targeting Muslim minority.

During the period, authorities blocked access to Facebook and WhatsApp, as well as the messaging app Viper, saying that Facebook did not sufficiently respond during the emergency.

However, some might consider the system flawed, since most of the implemented frameworks lack an automated intelligent system that alerts human moderators. In most cases these tools cannot automatically detect the abusive content faster than the traditional reporting system.

“For many people, this is no man’s land,” Ms. Forte said.

“You can get the impression that these platforms don’t do anything, the police don’t do much, lawyers are expensive, and the lawsuit can be negative. The best solution we have, if the culprit is identifiable, is to approach their employer,” she added.

So far, several companies have already signed up to try and manage such behavior between its employees, while maintaining their focus on employees’ internal behavior.