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You’ve Been Warned: An Empirical Study of the Effectiveness of Web Browser Phishing Warnings

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journal contribution
posted on 01.01.2008, 00:00 authored by Serge Egelman, Lorrie Faith Cranor, Jason Hong
Many popular web browsers now include active phishing warnings since research has shown that passive warnings are often ignored. In this laboratory study we examine the effectiveness of these warnings and examine if, how, and why they fail users. We simulated a spear phishing attack to expose users to browser warnings. We found that 97% of our sixty participants fell for at least one of the phishing messages that we sent them. However, we also found that when presented with the active warnings, 79% of participants heeded them, which was not the case for the passive warning that we tested—where only one participant heeded the warnings. Using a model from the warning sciences we analyzed how users perceive warning messages and offer suggestions for creating more effective phishing warnings.