• -

"Real Humans, Simulated Attacks" Dean's Lecture Series

Dean's Lecture Series
Real Humans, Simulated Attacks: Usability Testing with Attack Scenarios"
Lorrie Faith Cranor, Carnegie Mellon University
Tuesday, October 3, 11 am
UK Athletic Association Auditorium, W.T. Young Library


Abstract: User studies are critical to understanding how users perceive and interact with security and privacy software and features. While it is important that users be able to configure and use security tools when they are not at risk, it is even more important that the tools continue to protect users during an attack. Conducting user studies in the presence of (simulated) risk is complicated. We would like to observe how users behave when they are actually at risk, but at the same time we cannot harm user study participants or subject them to increased risk. Often the risky situations we are interested in occur relatively infrequently in the real world, and thus can be difficult to observe in the wild. Researchers use a variety of strategies to overcome these challenges and place participants in situations where they will believe their security or privacy is at risk, without subjecting them to increases in actual harm. In some studies, researchers recruit participants to perform real tasks not directly related to security so that they can observe how participants respond to simulated security-related prompts or cues that occur while users are focused on primary tasks. In other studies, researchers create a hypothetical scenario and try to get participants sufficiently engaged in it that they will be motivated to avoid simulated harm. Sometimes researchers have the opportunity to observe real, rather than simulated attacks, although these opportunities are usually difficult to come by. Researchers can monitor real world user behavior over long periods of time (in public or with permission of participants) and observe how users respond to risks that occur naturally, without researcher intervention. Dr. Cranor’s motivational lecture will highlight the importance of security user studies and discuss different user study approaches she has used at Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab Usable Privacy and Security Lab.