Maybe Poor Johnny Really Cannot Encrypt – The Case for a Complexity Theory for Usable Security

Interdisciplinary Research Group in Socio-technical Cybersecurity

Maybe Poor Johnny Really Cannot Encrypt – The Case for a Complexity Theory for Usable Security

Zinaida Benenson, Gabriele Lenzini, Daniela Oliveira, Simon Parkin, Sven Uebelacker
Abstract:
Psychology and neuroscience literature shows the existance of upper bounds on the human capacity for executing cognitive tasks and for information processing. These bounds are where, demonstrably, people start experiencing cognitive strain and consequently committing errors in the tasks execution. We argue that the usable security discipline should scientifically understand such bounds in order to have realistic expectations about what people can or cannot attain when coping with security tasks. This may shed light on whether Johnny will be ever be able to encrypt. We propose a conceptual framework for evaluation of human capacities in security that also assigns systems to complexity categories according to their security and usability. From what we have initiated in this paper, we ultimately aim at providing designers of security mechanisms and policies with the ability to say: "This feature of the security mechanism X or this security policy element Y is inappropriate, because this evidence shows that it is beyond the capacity of its target community".
Authors:
Zinaida Benenson, Gabriele Lenzini, Daniela Oliveira, Simon Parkin, Sven Uebelacker
Publication date:
2015
Published in:
Proceedings of the 2015 New Security Paradigms Workshop
Reference:
Benenson, Z., Lenzini, G., Oliveira, D., Parkin, S., & Uebelacker, S. (2015, September). Maybe poor johnny really cannot encrypt: The case for a complexity theory for usable security. In Proceedings of the 2015 New Security Paradigms Workshop (pp. 85-99).

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