Visible to the public Is domain highlighting actually helpful in identifying phishing webpages?Conflict Detection Enabled

TitleIs domain highlighting actually helpful in identifying phishing webpages?
Publication TypeJournal
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsAiping Xiong, Robert W. Proctor, Ninghui Li, Weining Yang
Keywordscybersecurity, decision making, information processing, phishing, Round 2 Projects, warnings

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: Two phishing detection experiments were conducted. 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 domain highlighting.

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.

Application: Potential applications include development of phishing-prevention training incorporating domain highlighting with other methods to help users identify phishing webpages.

Citation Keynode-34430