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Work in Progress: Can Johnny Encrypt E-Mails on Smartphones?

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Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS,volume 13176)


E-mail is nearly 50 years old and is still one of the most used communication protocols nowadays. However, it has no support for End-to-end encryption (E2EE) by default, which makes it inappropriate for sending sensitive information. This is why two e-mail encryption standards have been developed—namely, Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (S/MIME) and OpenPGP. Previous studies found that bad usability of encryption software can lead to software that is incorrectly used or not at all. Both consequences have a fatal impact on users’ security and privacy. In recent years, the number of e-mails that are read and written on mobile devices has increased drastically. In this paper, we conduct to the best of our knowledge, the first usability study of e-mail encryption apps on smartphones. We tested two mobile apps, one uses OpenPGP on Android and one uses S/MIME on iOS. In our usability study, we tested both apps with eleven participants and evaluated the usability with the System Usability Scale (SUS) and the Short Version of User Experience Questionnaire (UEQ-S). Our study shows that both apps have several usability issues which partly led to unencrypted e-mails and participants sending their passphrase instead of their public key.

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-031-10183-0_9
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We thank Zinaida Benenson for the discussion and comments that greatly improved the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Katharina Schiller .

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Schiller, K., Adamsky, F. (2022). Work in Progress: Can Johnny Encrypt E-Mails on Smartphones?. In: Parkin, S., Viganò, L. (eds) Socio-Technical Aspects in Security. STAST 2021. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 13176. Springer, Cham.

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