A recent research project may have taught some participants about the dangers of internet complacency, and showed the level of ignorance about easy security measures.
A trio of university researchers in the US simulated hacking into study participants’ personal laptops.
They left a message from an “Algerian hacker” with a laughing skull and crossbones, a 10 second countdown timer and the words; “Say goodbye to your computer”.
The hack was not real, but the fact that all of the participants got the message by ignoring web security warnings was.
“A lot of them freaked out – you could hear them audibly make noises from our observation rooms,” said Anthony Vance, assistant professor of Information Systems at Brigham Young University.
“Several rushed in to say something bad had happened.”
The team found that while people say they care about keeping their computers secure, most behave otherwise – in this case, by ploughing through malware warnings without a second glance.
“We see these messages so much that we stop thinking about them,” Vance said.
“In a sense, we don’t even see them anymore, and so we often ignore them and proceed anyway.”
To complete the study, researchers first asked participants how they felt about online security.