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So Long, And No Thanks for the Externalities: The Rational Rejection of Security Advice by Users
It is often suggested that users are hopelessly lazy and
unmotivated on security questions. They chose weak
passwords, ignore security warnings, and are oblivious
to certificates errors. We argue that users’ rejection
of the security advice they receive is entirely rational
from an economic perspective. The advice offers to
shield them from the direct costs of attacks, but burdens
them with far greater indirect costs in the form of effort.
Looking at various examples of security advice we find
that the advice is complex and growing, but the benefit
is largely speculative or moot. For example, much of the
advice concerning passwords is outdated and does little
to address actual treats, and fully 100% of certificate
error warnings appear to be false positives. Further, if
users spent even a minute a day reading URLs to avoid
phishing, the cost (in terms of user time) would be two
orders of magnitude greater than all phishing losses.
Thus we find that most security advice simply offers a
poor cost-benefit tradeoff to users and is rejected. Security
advice is a daily burden, applied to the whole
population, while an upper bound on the benefit is the
harm suffered by the fraction that become victims annually.
When that fraction is small, designing security
advice that is beneficial is very hard. For example, it
makes little sense to burden all users with a daily task
to spare 0.01% of them a modest annual pain.
security  infosec  usability  paper  filetype:pdf  economics  time  risk 
august 2018 by jabley

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