Carnegie Mellon University
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Decision Strategies and Susceptibility to Phishing

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journal contribution
posted on 2006-01-01, 00:00 authored by Julie S Downs, Mandy B Holbrook, Lorrie Faith Cranor
Phishing emails are semantic attacks that con people into divulging sensitive information using techniques to make the user believe that information is being requested by a legitimate source. In order to develop tools that will be effective in combating these schemes, we first must know how and why people fall for them. This study reports preliminary analysis of interviews with 20 nonexpert computer users to reveal their strategies and understand their decisions when encountering possibly suspicious emails. One of the reasons that people may be vulnerable to phishing schemes is that awareness of the risks is not linked to perceived vulnerability or to useful strategies in identifying phishing emails. Rather, our data suggest that people can manage the risks that they are most familiar with, but don’t appear to extrapolate to be wary of unfamiliar risks. We explore several strategies that people use, with varying degrees of success, in evaluating emails and in making sense of warnings offered by browsers attempting to help users navigate the web.




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