CEC Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Information Systems (DISS)

Department

College of Engineering and Computing

Advisor

Yair Levy

Committee Member

John D'Arcy

Committee Member

Ling Wang

Abstract

Cyber-attacks on Internet users have caused billions of dollars in losses annually. Cybercriminals launch attacks via threat vectors such as unsecured wireless networks and phishing attacks on Internet users who are usually not aware of such attacks. Senior citizens are one of the most vulnerable groups who are prone to cyber-attacks, and this is largely due to their limited cybersecurity awareness and skills. Within the last decade, there has been a significant increase in Internet usage among senior citizens. It was documented that senior citizens had the greatest rate of increase in Internet usage over all the other age groups during the past decade. However, whenever senior citizens use the Internet, they are being targeted and exploited particularly for financial crimes, with estimation that one in five becoming a victim of financial fraud, costing more than $2.6 billion per year. Increasing the cybersecurity awareness and skills levels of Internet users have been recommended to mitigate the effects of cyber-attacks. However, it is unclear what motivates Internet users, particularly senior citizens, to acquire cybersecurity skills so that they can identify as well as mitigate the effects of the cyber-attacks. It is also not known how effective cybersecurity awareness training are on the cybersecurity skill level of senior citizens. Therefore, the main goal of this quantitative study was to empirically investigate the factors that contributed to senior citizens’ motivation to acquire cybersecurity skills so that they would be able to identify and mitigate cyber-attacks, as well as assess their actual cybersecurity skills level. This was done by assessing a model of contributing factors identified in prior literature (senior citizens’ cybersecurity awareness, computer self-efficacy, perceived risk of identity theft, & older adults’ computer technology attitude) on the motivation of senior citizens to acquire cybersecurity skills. This study utilized a Web-based survey to measure the contributing factors and a hands-on scenarios-based iPad app called MyCyberSkills™ that was developed and empirically validated in prior research to measure the cybersecurity skills level of the senior citizens. All study measures were done before and after cybersecurity awareness training (pre- & post-test) to uncover if there were any differences on the assessed models and scores due to such treatment. The study included a sample of 254 senior citizens with a mean age of about 70 years.

Path analyses using Smart PLS 3.0 were done to assess the pre- and post-test models to determine the contributions of each contributing factor to senior citizens’ motivation to acquire cybersecurity skills. Additionally, analysis of variance (ANOVA) and analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) using SPSS were done to determine significant mean difference between the pre-and post-test levels of the senior citizens’ cybersecurity skill level. The path analysis results indicate that while all paths on both models were significant, many of the paths had very low path coefficients, which in turn, indicated weak relationships among the assessed paths. However, although the path coefficients were lower than expected, the findings suggest that both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, along with antecedents such as senior citizens’ cybersecurity awareness, computer self-efficacy, perceived risk of identity theft, and older adults’ computer technology attitude significantly impact the cybersecurity skill levels of senior citizens. The analysis of variance results indicated that there was a significant increase in the mean cybersecurity skills scores from 59.67% to 64.51% (N=254) as a result of the cybersecurity awareness training. Hence, the cybersecurity awareness training was effective in increasing the cybersecurity skill level of the senior citizens, and empowered them with small but significant improvement in the requisite skills to take mitigating actions against cyberattacks.

The analysis of covariance results indicated that, except for years using computers, all the other demographic indicators were not significant. Contributions from this study add to the body of knowledge by providing empirical results on the factors that motivate senior citizens to acquire cybersecurity skills, and thus, may help in reducing some of the billions of dollars in losses accrued to them because of cyber-attacks. Senior citizens will also benefit in that they will be better able to identify and mitigate the effects of cyber-attacks should they attend cybersecurity awareness trainings. Additionally, the recommendations from this study can be useful to law enforcement and other agencies that work with senior citizens in reducing the number of cases relating to cybersecurity issues amongst senior citizens, and thus, free up resources to fight other sources of cybercrime for law enforcement agencies.

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