The Internet enables users to access vast resources, but it can also expose users to harmful cyber-attacks. It is imperative that users be informed about a security incident in a timely manner in order to make proper decisions. Visualization of security threats and warnings is one of the effective ways to inform users. However, visual cues are not always accessible to all users, and in particular, those with visual impairments. This late-breaking-work paper hypothesizes that the use of proper sounds in conjunction with visual cues can better represent security alerts to all users. Toward our research goal to validate this hypothesis, we first describe a methodology, referred to as sonification, to effectively design and develop auditory cyber-security threat indicators to warn users about cyber-attacks. Next, we present a case study, along with the results, of various types of usability testing conducted on a number of Internet users who are visually impaired. The presented concept can be viewed as a general framework for the creation and evaluation of human factor interactions with sounds in a cyber-space domain. The paper concludes with a discussion of future steps to enhance this work.
Warning users about cyber threats through sounds
Abstract This paper reports a formative evaluation of auditory representations of cyber security threat indicators and cues, referred to as sonifications, to warn users about cyber threats. Most Internet browsers provide visual cues and textual warnings to help users identify when they are at risk. Although these alarming mechanisms are very effective in informing users, there are certain situations and circumstances where these alarming techniques are unsuccessful in drawing the user’s attention: (1) security warnings and features (e.g., blocking out malicious Websites) might overwhelm a typical Internet user and thus the users may overlook or ignore visual and textual warnings and, as a result, they might be targeted, (2) these visual cues are inaccessible to certain users such as those with visual impairments. This work is motivated by our previous work of the use of sonification of security warnings to users who are visually impaired. To investigate the usefulness of sonification in general security settings, this work uses real Websites instead of simulated Web applications with sighted participants. The study targets sonification for three different types of security threats: (1) phishing, (2) malware downloading, and (3) form filling. The results show that on average 58% of the participants were able more »
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