CEC Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Information Systems (DISS)

Department

College of Engineering and Computing

Advisor

Maxine S. Cohen

Committee Member

Yair Levy

Committee Member

Ling Wang

Abstract

The overall security posture of information systems (IS) depends on the behaviors of the IS users. Several studies have shown that users are the greatest vulnerability to IS security. The proliferation of smartphones is introducing an entirely new set of risks, threats, and vulnerabilities. Smartphone devices amplify this data exposure problem by enabling instantaneous transmission and storage of personally identifiable information (PII) by smartphone users, which is becoming a major security risk. Moreover, companies are also capitalizing on the availability and powerful computing capabilities of these smartphone devices and developing a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) program, which makes companies susceptible to divulgence of organizational proprietary information and sensitive customer information. In addition to users being the greatest risk to IS security, several studies have shown that many people do not implement even the most basic security countermeasures on their smartphones. The lack of security countermeasures implementation, risky user behavior, and the amount of sensitive information stored and transmitted on smartphones is becoming an ever-increasing problem.

A literature review revealed a significant gap in literature pertaining to smartphone security. This study identified six socio-cognitive factors from the domain of traditional computer security which have shown to have an impact on user security behaviors and practices. The six factors this study identified and analyzed are mobile information security self-efficacy, institutional trust, party trust, and awareness of smartphone risks, threats, and vulnerabilities and their influence on smartphone security practices and behaviors. The analysis done in this research was confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) – structural equation modeling (SEM). The goal of this study was to cross-validate previously validated factors within the context of traditional computer security and assess their applicability in the context of smartphone security. Additionally, this study assessed the influential significance of these factors on the security behaviors and practices of smartphone users.

This study used a Web-based survey and was distributed to approximately 539 users through Facebook® and LinkedIn® social media outlets which resulted in 275 responses for a 51% response rate. After pre-analysis data screening was completed, there were a total of 19 responses that had to be eliminated due to unengaged responses and outliers leaving 256 responses left to analyze. The results of the analysis found that vulnerability awareness, threat awareness, and risk awareness are interrelated to one another which all in turn had significance in predicting self-efficacy, security practices, and behaviors. This intricate relationship revealed in this study indicates that a user has to have an increased awareness in all three categories of awareness before they can fully understand how to protect themselves. Having an increased awareness in one category does not impact the overall security posture of the user and that risk, threat, and vulnerability awareness all work together. Another interesting find was that as risk awareness increased the less the smartphone users protected themselves. This finding warrants additional research to investigate why the user is more averse to risk, and willing to accept the risk, despite their increased awareness. Finally, institutional trust and party trust was found not to have any significance on any of the factors.

These findings should give smartphone users and organizations insight into specific areas to focus on in minimizing inappropriate security behaviors and practices of smartphone users. More specifically, users and organizations need to focus on educating users on all three factors of threats, risks, and vulnerabilities in order for there to have any impact on increasing self-efficacy and reducing inappropriate security behaviors and practices.