Reading this May Harm Your Computer: The Psychology of Malware Warnings

David Modic

University of Exeter; University of Cambridge

Ross J. Anderson

Cambridge University Computer Laboratory

January 3, 2014

Internet users face large numbers of security warnings, which they mostly ignore. To improve risk communication, warnings must be fewer but better. We report an experiment on whether compliance can be increased by using some of the social-psychological techniques the scammers themselves use, namely appeal to authority, social compliance, concrete threats and vague threats. We also investigated whether users turned off browser malware warnings (or would have, had they known how).

Number of Pages in PDF File: 31

Keywords: malware, persuasion, human computer interaction, psychology

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Date posted: January 5, 2014 ; Last revised: October 3, 2014

Suggested Citation

Modic, David and Anderson, Ross J., Reading this May Harm Your Computer: The Psychology of Malware Warnings (January 3, 2014). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2374379 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2374379

Contact Information

David Modic (Contact Author)
University of Exeter ( email )
Washington Singer Laboratories
Perry Road
Exeter, Devon EX4 4QG
United Kingdom
HOME PAGE: http://www.ex.ac.uk/psychology
University of Cambridge ( email )
Computer Laboratory, William Gates Building
15 JJ Thomson Avenue
Cambridge, Cambridgeshire CB3 0FD
United Kingdom
00441223767014 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk
Ross J. Anderson
Cambridge University Computer Laboratory ( email )
JJ Thomson Avenue
Cambridge, CB3 0FD
United Kingdom
HOME PAGE: http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~rja14
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