Google Research

“...no one can hack my mind”: Comparing Expert and Non-Expert Security Practices

Proceedings of the Eleventh Symposium On Usable Privacy and Security, USENIX (2015), pp. 327-346

Abstract

The state of advice given to people today on how to stay safe online has plenty of room for improvement. Too many things are asked of them, which may be unrealistic, time consuming, or not really worth the effort. To improve the security advice, our community must find out what practices people use and what recommendations, if messaged well, are likely to bring the highest benefit while being realistic to ask of people. In this paper, we present the results of a study which aims to identify which practices people do that they consider most important at protecting their security online. We compare self-reported security practices of non-experts to those of security experts (i.e., participants who reported having five or more years of experience working in computer security). We report on the results of two online surveys—one with 231 security experts and one with 294 MTurk participants—on what the practices and attitudes of each group are. Our findings show a discrepancy between the security practices that experts and non-experts report taking. For instance, while experts most frequently report installing software updates, using two-factor authentication and using a password manager to stay safe online, non-experts report using antivirus software, visiting only known websites, and changing passwords frequently.

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