Visible to the public Exploring Perceptions of Phishing: The Role of Social Engineering in the Science of Security


One hundred fifty-five participants completed a survey on Amazon's Mechanical Turk that assessed characteristics of phishing attacks and requested participants to describe their previous experiences and the related consequences. Results indicated almost all participants had been targets of a phishing with 22% reporting these attempts were successful. Participants reported actively engaging in efforts to protect themselves online by noticing the "padlock icon" and seeking additional information to verify the legitimacy of e-retailers. Moreover, participants indicated that phishers most frequently pose as members of organizations and that phishing typically occurs via email yet they are aware that other media might also make them susceptible to phishing scams. The reported consequences of phishing attacks go beyond financial loss, with many participants describing social ramifications such as embarrassment and of reduced trust. Implications for research in risk communication and design roles by human factors/ergonomics (HF/E) professionals are discussed.

Dr. Christopher B. Mayhorn, Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Psychology program, joined the faculty at North Carolina State University in 2002. He earned a B.A. from The Citadel (1992), an M.S. (1995), a Graduate Certificate in Gerontology (1995), and a Ph.D. (1999) from the University of Georgia. He also completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Dr. Mayhorn's current research interests include everyday memory, decision-making, human-computer interaction, safety and risk communication for older adult populations. Dr. Mayhorn has more than 30 peer-reviewed publications to his credit and his research has been funded by government agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Security Agency. Currently, Chris is serving on the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES) Government Relations Committee and as the Chair of the Technical Program Committee of HFES.

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Exploring Perceptions of Phishing: The Role of Social Engineering in the Science of Security
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