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People simply disregard software security warnings up to 90 percent of the time

Internet security has always been a big concern for both users and software developers. Convenient as the Internet is, it represents an insecure channel for exchanging information leading to a high risk of intrusion or fraud. Different methods have been used to protect the transfer of data, including encryption and from-the-ground-up engineering.

CaptureMost often than not, software developers and most of the applications would give their users security warning messages or notice on their computers or mobile devices. But recent research suggests that if they want to get users’ real and undivided attention, the security warnings need to be shown at better times.

A new study by researchers at Brigham Young University and engineers at Google Chrome found that the status quo of warning messages appearing haphazardly—while people are typing, watching a video, uploading files, etc.—results in up to 90 percent of users disregarding them. These times are less effective than others because users are multi-tasking—or facing “dual task interference”, as it is coined in neurology field.

The term refers to a neural limitation where even simple tasks cannot be simultaneously performed without significant performance loss.

According to the report, seventy-four percent of people in the study ignored security messages that popped up while they were on the way to close a web page window. Another 79 percent ignored the messages if they were watching a video. And 87 percent disregarded the messages while they were transferring information.

While this may sound like common knowledge, the study is the first of its kind to show empirically the effects of multitasking on Internet security.

And hey, if you’re doing stuff on the internet and a warning message pops up, it might be a good idea to stop what you’re doing and check it out. You never know, it could be something vitally important.

Reina Ho

Reina Ho is a freelance reporter who focuses on censorship and information control in online space.

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