Study Shows Average User Is Pretty Stupid When It Comes to Popups
September 24, 2008 8:15 AM
comment(s) - last by
The new study from the North Carolina State University's Psych department shows just how dumb the average user is when it comes to computer security. The study shows users are willing to do anything, including throwing security caution to the wind, to get rid of minor annoyances.
A new study is giving computer savvy users a look at the "other" users' behavior
You often wonder how users fall for seemingly obvious ploys -- you know, the letter from Makib in Ethiopia seeking for donations for an orphanage, or perhaps the most recent
fake ticket emails that claim to have your ticket in a ZIP file
. To the computer savvy, these silly attempts might make for a good morning laugh, but security experts say there's nothing to laugh about when millions of naïve users fall for the scheme and their computers become part of a botnet, used to
launch devastating DoS attacks
A new study from the Psychology Department of North Carolina State University gives some insight into just how
easily tricked many users are
. On compromised websites one form of malware distribution is through popup windows. If users click to dismiss them, they often download malware onto their computers. So just how many users would be tricked into clicking?
The researchers crafted 4 dialog boxes and exposed 42 college students to them in a normal browsing atmosphere. Each box contained the cryptic message "The instruction at '0x77f41d24 referenced memory at '0x595c2a4c." The first one bore the markings of a standard Windows dialog, but the remainder had noticeable differences that should have warned users that it was malware.
In each of the dialogs putting the mouse over the "OK" button turned the cursor into a hand, a sign that it was a browser control, not a Windows dialog. The dialogs also all had minimize and maximize buttons. Starting with the second one, a browser status bar was added to the bottom. Finally the last one was made blatantly obvious by text that flashed from black on a white background to white on a black background.
To properly lure the college students into the ruse, they created a series of fake medical websites in Flash. The students were told they were going to be quizzed on the information on the sites after the test. The popups were then activated as the students were browsing the sites.
Of the 42 college students, 26 clicked the "OK" button on the most normal looking dialog, 25 clicked on each of the more obvious fakes, and 23 clicked on the most obvious fake, the one with the flashing text. This study should be welcome news to malware crafters -- college educated users will click obviously dangerous dialogs over 50 percent of the time.
In all only 9 users closed the dialogs. The rest minimized them, or dragged them out of the way, risky behaviors, as the next user at the computer could be exposed to the dialog. The time between the dialog appearing and the user clicking remained approximately constant for all the dialogs. This seems to indicate that the users did not even think much before clicking the foreign message.
In follow up questions, over half of students said the dialog boxes were a distraction from the task at hand and they would do anything to get rid of them. The study seems to indicate that computer exposure, with lack of understanding has bred an atmosphere where users are unsurprised by dialogs and GUIs, and care little for their contents.
While the study's authors suggested education of students to warn them of these kind of dangers, the apathy of the students towards the dialogs seems to bring the fruits of such education into question.
The study is appearing soon in the journal
Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
RE: Who Reads Directions Either?
9/24/2008 1:19:20 PM
"Dumb" is also relative. I know someone who isn't a computer person and most everybody here would say is a computer dummy. However that person has her field of expertise such that she could make almost anybody here seem like a real dumb-ass. I think the word dumb is being passed around here a bit loosely.
"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer
Hackers Inject Trojans Into Computers with Airline Ticket Scam
September 22, 2008, 10:11 AM
CNN.com Repels Hacker Attack After Coverage On Tibet
April 21, 2008, 9:55 AM
Netflix Announces 7-to-1 Stock Split, Eyes Explosive Overseas Growth
June 23, 2015, 8:18 PM
Sources: Hack on Fed. Database Lost 4.1M Social Security Numbers, Personal Info
June 11, 2015, 9:11 PM
The Big One: Chinese Hackers Steal Records of 4 Million U.S. Gov. Employees
June 4, 2015, 8:13 PM
Tutorial: Here's How to Force YouTube or Vimeo VIdeos to Embed as HTML5
June 3, 2015, 10:14 PM
Google Finally Fixes Maps Bug That Was Giving Racist, Profane Results
May 21, 2015, 1:43 PM
The Pirate Bay Loses Its Iconic Swedish Dot SE Domains
May 20, 2015, 6:31 PM
Most Popular Articles
F-16 Schools Trillion-Dollar F-35 in Mock Combat, Fleeing is Best Option Pilot Admits
July 1, 2015, 5:53 PM
Apple Music: The Money, The Launch Hiccups, and the Nitty Gritty Details
June 30, 2015, 5:09 PM
Quick Note: Lumia 940 XL "Cityman" Phablet Gets Teased Via Tests
June 29, 2015, 5:51 PM
SpaceX Falcon 9's Seventh Supply Mission to ISS Ends w/ Fiery Stage 1 Explosion
June 28, 2015, 1:10 PM
Windows XP, Vista Users Can Get Free Windows 10 Upgrade Thanks to Loophole
June 23, 2015, 2:23 PM
Latest Blog Posts
Sceptre Airs 27", 120 Hz. 1080p Monitor/HDTV w/ 5 ms Response Time for $220
Dec 3, 2014, 10:32 PM
Costco Gives Employees Thanksgiving Off; Wal-Mart Leads "Black Thursday" Charge
Oct 29, 2014, 9:57 PM
"Bear Selfies" Fad Could Turn Deadly, Warn Nevada Wildlife Officials
Oct 28, 2014, 12:00 PM
The Surface Mini That Was Never Released Gets "Hands On" Treatment
Sep 26, 2014, 8:22 AM
ISIS Imposes Ban on Teaching Evolution in Iraq
Sep 17, 2014, 5:22 PM
More Blog Posts
Copyright 2015 DailyTech LLC. -
Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information