Perimeter
3/18/2010
04:30 PM
Gadi Evron
Gadi Evron
Commentary
50%
50%

So Long, And No Thanks: Why User Education Fails

In "So Long, And No Thanks for the Externalities: The Rational Rejection of Security Advice by Users," Cormac Herley of Microsoft Research tries to answer why users don't respond to security advice.

In "So Long, And No Thanks for the Externalities: The Rational Rejection of Security Advice by Users," Cormac Herley of Microsoft Research tries to answer why users don't respond to security advice.Herley's paper examines common security advice in a pragmatic way, looking at its perceived cost and whether it's worth the effort.

In his paper, he says:

"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 certificate 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."

"...the decision has been unambiguous: users have decided that the cost is far too great for the benefit offered. If we want a different outcome we have to offer a better tradeoff. We examine next how we got things so wrong, and look at ways to make things better.
He argues that current efforts are not getting users' cooperation:
"Given a choice between dancing pigs and security, users will pick dancing pigs every time." While amusing, this is unfair: users are never offered security, either on its own or as an alternative to anything else. They are offered long, complex and growing sets of advice, mandates, policy updates and tips. These sometimes carry vague and tentative suggestions of reduced risk, never security."
And to sum it up, he adds:
"We have shown that much of this advice does nothing to make users more secure, and some of it is harmful in its own right. Security is not something users are offered and turn down. What they are ooffered and do turn down is crushingly complex security advice that promises little and delivers less."
Most in our industry agree that user education is critical; users are our biggest liability. However, most of us also recognize that it is not very efficient. I hope more research of this nature will be performed and that we will be able to construct better user education programs, such as this one regarding anti-phishing.

Follow Gadi Evron on Twitter: http://twitter.com/gadievron.

Gadi Evron is an independent security strategist based in Israel. Special to Dark Reading.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Flash Poll
Title Partner’s Role in Perimeter Security
Title Partner’s Role in Perimeter Security
Considering how prevalent third-party attacks are, we need to ask hard questions about how partners and suppliers are safeguarding systems and data.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-6090
Published: 2015-04-27
Multiple cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerabilities in the (1) DataMappingEditorCommands, (2) DatastoreEditorCommands, and (3) IEGEditorCommands servlets in IBM Curam Social Program Management (SPM) 5.2 SP6 before EP6, 6.0 SP2 before EP26, 6.0.3 before 6.0.3.0 iFix8, 6.0.4 before 6.0.4.5 iFix...

CVE-2014-6092
Published: 2015-04-27
IBM Curam Social Program Management (SPM) 5.2 before SP6 EP6, 6.0 SP2 before EP26, 6.0.4 before 6.0.4.6, and 6.0.5 before 6.0.5.6 requires failed-login handling for web-service accounts to have the same lockout policy as for standard user accounts, which makes it easier for remote attackers to cause...

CVE-2015-0113
Published: 2015-04-27
The Jazz help system in IBM Rational Collaborative Lifecycle Management 4.0 through 5.0.2, Rational Quality Manager 4.0 through 4.0.7 and 5.0 through 5.0.2, Rational Team Concert 4.0 through 4.0.7 and 5.0 through 5.0.2, Rational Requirements Composer 4.0 through 4.0.7, Rational DOORS Next Generation...

CVE-2015-0174
Published: 2015-04-27
The SNMP implementation in IBM WebSphere Application Server (WAS) 8.5 before 8.5.5.5 does not properly handle configuration data, which allows remote authenticated users to obtain sensitive information via unspecified vectors.

CVE-2015-0175
Published: 2015-04-27
IBM WebSphere Application Server (WAS) 8.5 Liberty Profile before 8.5.5.5 does not properly implement authData elements, which allows remote authenticated users to gain privileges via unspecified vectors.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Join security and risk expert John Pironti and Dark Reading Editor-in-Chief Tim Wilson for a live online discussion of the sea-changing shift in security strategy and the many ways it is affecting IT and business.