K-State researchers work to inform users of Internet security risks

09/12/2012 8:20 AM

09/12/2012 8:21 AM

Most people obey traffic laws without necessarily knowing the reason why that law exists, Eugene Vasserman says.

But when they get a security warning while using their computer, many think differently, sometimes to their regret.

Vasserman, an assistant professor of computing and information sciences at Kansas State University, is working with other researchers to develop improved security warning messages that prompt users to go with their gut when making decisions online.

This is important to all of us because nearly all of us every day face some sort of threat or problem online when handling our sensitive information. And not all of us do what we need to learn how to protect ourselves. Vasserman and Gary Brase, associate professor of psychology at K-State, are researching how to help computer users who have little to no computer experience improve their Web browsing safety without security-specific education.

There are many ways our private information could be compromised, Vasserman said, in a phone conversation from Manhattan. There are many scam artists who use technology to go “phishing” and get our private information. “And there is a lot of misunderstanding about what is private and what is not,” Vasserman said.

The goal is to keep users from making mistakes, he said. The researchers are developing simplified messaging systems that would show people lacking computer skills now to better understand warnings about their computer security decisions.

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