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“…I have my dad, sister, brother, and mom’s password”: unveiling users’ mental models of security and privacy-preserving tools

Prakriti Dumaru (Department of Computer Science, College of Science, Utah State University, Logan, Utah, USA)
Ankit Shrestha (Department of Computer Science, College of Science, Utah State University, Logan, Utah, USA)
Rizu Paudel (Department of Computer Science, College of Science, Utah State University, Logan, Utah, USA)
Cassity Haverkamp (Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services, Utah State University, Logan, Utah, USA)
Maryellen Brunson McClain (School of Education, Indiana University Bloomington, Bloomington, Indiana, USA)
Mahdi Nasrullah Al-Ameen (Department of Computer Science, College of Science, Utah State University, Logan, Utah, USA)

Information and Computer Security

ISSN: 2056-4961

Article publication date: 20 November 2023

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to understand user perceptions and misconceptions regarding security tools. Security and privacy-preserving tools (for brevity, the authors term them as “security tools” in this paper, unless otherwise specified) are designed to protect the security and privacy of people in the digital environment. However, inappropriate use of these tools can lead to unexpected consequences that are preventable. Hence, it is significant to examine why users do not understand the security tools.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors conducted a qualitative study with 40 participants in the USA to investigate the prevalent misconceptions of people regarding security tools, their perceptions of data access and the corresponding impact on their usage behavior and data protection strategies.

Findings

While security vulnerabilities are often rooted in people’s internet usage behavior, this study examined user’s mental models of the internet and unpacked how the misconceptions about security tools relate to those mental models.

Originality/value

Based on the findings, this study offers recommendations highlighting the design aspects of security tools that need careful attention from researchers and industry practitioners, to alleviate users’ misconceptions and provide them with accurate conceptual models toward the desired use of security tools.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The article is submitted to Information and Computer Security.

Citation

Dumaru, P., Shrestha, A., Paudel, R., Haverkamp, C., McClain, M.B. and Al-Ameen, M.N. (2023), "“…I have my dad, sister, brother, and mom’s password”: unveiling users’ mental models of security and privacy-preserving tools", Information and Computer Security, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/ICS-04-2023-0047

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023, Emerald Publishing Limited

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