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Aiping Xiong, Robert W. Proctor, Ninghui Li, Weining Yang.  2016.  Use of Warnings for Instructing Users How to Detect Phishing Webpages. 46th Annual Meeting of the Society for Computers in Psychology.

The ineffectiveness of phishing warnings has been attributed to users' poor comprehension of the warning. However, the effectiveness of a phishing warning is typically evaluated at the time when users interact with a suspected phishing webpage, which we call the effect with phishing warning. Nevertheless, users' improved phishing detection when the warning is absent—or the effect of the warning—is the ultimate goal to prevent users from falling for phishing scams. We conducted an online study to evaluate the effect with and of several phishing warning variations, varying the point at which the warning was presented and whether procedural knowledge instruction was included in the warning interface. The current Chrome phishing warning was also included as a control. 360 Amazon Mechanical-Turk workers made submission; 500¬ word maximum for symposia) decisions about 10 login webpages (8 authentic, 2 fraudulent) with the aid of warning (first phase). After a short distracting task, the workers made the same decisions about 10 different login webpages (8 authentic, 2 fraudulent) without warning. In phase one, the compliance rates with two proposed warning interfaces (98% and 94%) were similar to those of the Chrome warning (98%), regardless of when the warning was presented. In phase two (without warning), performance was better for the condition in which warning with procedural knowledge instruction was presented before the phishing webpage in phase one, suggesting a better of effect than for the other conditions. With the procedural knowledge of how to determine a webpage’s legitimacy, users identified phishing webpages more accurately even without the warning being presented.

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Aiping Xiong, R. W. Proctor, Weining Yang, Ninghui Li.  2017.  Is Domain Highlighting Actually Helpful in Identifying Phishing Webpages? Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.

Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness of domain highlighting in helping users identify whether webpages are legitimate or spurious.

Background: As a component of the URL, a domain name can be overlooked. Consequently, browsers highlight the domain name to help users identify which website they are visiting. Nevertheless, few studies have assessed the effectiveness of domain highlighting, and the only formal study confounded highlighting with instructions to look at the address bar. 

Method: We conducted two phishing detection experiments. Experiment 1 was run online: Participants judged the legitimacy of webpages in two phases. In phase one, participants were to judge the legitimacy based on any information on the webpage, whereas phase two they were to focus on the address bar. Whether the domain was highlighted was also varied.  Experiment 2 was conducted similarly but with participants in a laboratory setting, which allowed tracking of fixations.

Results: Participants differentiated the legitimate and fraudulent webpages better than chance. There was some benefit of attending to the address bar, but domain highlighting did not provide effective protection against phishing attacks. Analysis of eye-gaze fixation measures was in agreement with the task performance, but heat-map results revealed that participants’ visual attention was attracted by the highlighted domains.

Conclusion: Failure to detect many fraudulent webpages even when the domain was highlighted implies that users lacked knowledge of webpage security cues or how to use those cues.