Las Vegas, NV – The days of the paternalistic approach to cybersecurity may be numbered. Until recently, the data security and privacy ecosystem have been driven by the assumption that end-users are helpless and vulnerable – sitting ducks that must be protected by their service providers or corporate employers from the inevitable attacks of malicious groups on a never-ending mission to exploit their lack of technical prowess. McAfee is leading the charge to break down the barriers that prevent the everyday consumer from realizing the full potential of their security solution.

“If you were to ask me what is the number one threat to consumers, it’s apathy,” according to Alan LeFort, VP of Strategy at McAfee. “It’s not apathy because they ‘just can’t be bothered’, but because they don’t understand the risks, and they don’t understand what’s in their control!”

Now, more than ever, as every facet of life involves connected devices, there is a critical need to pierce through that wall of apathy and find ways to reach consumers’ minds and hearts. The most effective method of learning is through emotional connection, specifically to incorporate positive reinforcement.

“A lot of [security solutions] only tell you if you’ve had malware, but if there’s nothing wrong, they won’t tell you anything,” LeFort continues. “[Our solution] not only tells you if a download has malware, but will also let you know ‘it had no malware, good thing you checked!’” Using this method of positive feedback for doing the right thing helps instill a sense of control and responsibility in consumers, and ultimately encourages them to continue and expand their “good” behaviors online.

The shift to a more consumer-focused approach to engagement was spurred by a major change in the feedback from end-users. “One of the trends we’ve seen is that consumers today define ‘protection’ in a very different way than they did five years ago,” says LeFort. “There’s a much greater concern about privacy and identity than there’s ever been.”

With the myriad reports of threats, breaches, and hacks covered by the mainstream media, people are increasingly anxious about their privacy and data protection. There is a heightened sense of urgency to feel safe and secure in the digital age. The real challenge is figuring out how to adapt technology in such a way as to be a simple, easy-to-understand interface for non-technical end-users, and also implementing an optimal strategy to reach as many consumers as possible.

“McAfee has built a solution that deploys globally through telecommunication including two of the largest global telcos, where our code sits on a router in the subscribers home and is controlled through a mobile app that protects all IoT devices.  It is through these strategic partnership deployments that McAfee protects over 400 million mobile devices globally,” said LeFort.

But the real secret sauce is in the improved, enhanced messaging to the end-users. “We’re constantly thinking about how do we choose the right words?” LeFort continues, “How do we say the right things at the right moment? How do we get the right feedback mechanisms that make people want to use our software, and not see it as a nuisance, but [rather] something that sets them at ease and gives peace of mind?”

The solution, it seems, is guiding the right behaviors in a simple to understand terms which ultimately builds trust and confidence amongst customers. LeFort gives an example, “If you said, ‘Click here to ensure that your words and your actions are not intercepted,’ you don’t need to know technology to know that you don’t want anyone reading your words or knowing your actions. Now, you’ve connected with them on a human level! You haven’t made them feel stupid, you’ve made them smarter! Those are the types of things we look at [when figuring out] how to make our software better.”

Over the last year, there has been a lot of buzz about end-user education and empowerment. McAfee is leading the charge, and others will most assuredly follow. The time has come to embolden even the least tech-savvy consumers with the basic tools and knowledge to take some measure of control over their cyber destiny.


Gary Berman, Cybersecurity Reporter

Cyber Defense Magazine

Gary Berman is a contributing reporter for Cyber Defense Magazine. He was the victim of a series of insider hacks for several years until he made the pivot from victim to advocate. He is creator and CEO of The CyberHero Adventures: Defenders of the Digital Universe, a groundbreaking comic series that distills complex cybersecurity information into entertaining and educational superhero stories, making cyber hygiene accessible for non-technical people.

Olivier Vallez, JD, MBA – Lead Writer/Cybersecurity Reporter

Cyber Defense Magazine

Olivier Vallez is a contributing writer for Cyber Defense Magazine, covering various cybersecurity topics and events. He is the Head of Business Development at The CyberHero Adventures: Defenders of the Digital Universe, a groundbreaking comic platform that distills complex cybersecurity information into a fun and engaging superhero stories and makes cyber hygiene easy-to-understand for non-technical people.