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Home-Computer ­sers at Risk Due to ­se of 'folk Model' Security

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Rick Wash

Photo courtesy of Michigan State University

Most home computer users attempt to secure their machines based on folk models, or their beliefs about hackers or viruses, according to new research from Michigan State University professor Rick Wash. Although people are trying to make the best sense of the situation, they make choices that leave them vulnerable, Wash says.

His research has identified eight folk models that people use to decide what security software to use and which advice to follow, ranging from the vague and generic "viruses are bad" to the more specific "hackers are burglars who break into computers for criminal purposes." Wash says the problem of home computer security is compounded because users do not necessarily follow the advice of credible computer security experts.

The folk models will help explain why people follow or ignore certain advice. "By better understanding why people choose to ignore certain pieces of advice, we can better craft that advice and technologies to have a greater effect," Wash says. "Security education efforts should focus not only on recommending what actions to take, but also emphasize why those actions are necessary."

From MSU News
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