Number Theory and Cryptography pp 255-280
Mental Models – General Introduction and Review of Their Application to Human-Centred Security
The human-centred security research area came into being about fifteen years ago, as more and more people started owning their own computers, and it became clear that there was a need for more focus on the non-specialist computer user. The primary attitude fifteen years ago, in terms of how these new users were concerned, was one of exasperation and paternalism. The term “stupid user” was often heard, often muttered sotto voce by an IT specialist dealing with the aftermath of a security incident. A great deal of research has been published in this area, and after pursuing some unfruitful avenues a number of eminent researchers have started to focus on the end-user’s perceptions and understandings. This has come from a realisation that end users are not the opponents, but rather allies in the battle against those carrying out nefarious activities. The most promising research direction currently appears to be to focus on mental models, a concept borrowed from the respected and long-standing field of Psychology and, in particular, cognitive science. The hope is that if we understand the end-user and his/her comprehension of security better, we will be able to design security solutions and interactions more effectively. In this paper we review the research undertaken in this area so far, highlight the limitations thereof, and suggest directions for future research.
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