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Publication - Dr Emma Williams

    Exploring Older Adult Susceptibility to Fraudulent Computer Pop-Up Interruptions


    Morgan, P, Williams, EJ, Zook, N & Christopher, G, 2018, ‘Exploring Older Adult Susceptibility to Fraudulent Computer Pop-Up Interruptions’. in: Tareq Z Ahram, Denise Nicholson (eds) Advances in Human Factors in Cybersecurity: Proceedings of the AHFE 2018 International Conference on Human Factors in Cybersecurity, July 21-25, 2018, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Studios, Orlando, Florida, USA. Springer, Cham, pp. 56-68


    The proliferation of Internet connectivity and accessibility has been accompanied by an increase in cyber-threats, including fraudulent communications. Fake computer updates, which attempt to persuade people to download malicious software by mimicking trusted brands and/or instilling urgency, are one way in which fraudsters try to infiltrate systems. A recent study of young university students (M 18.52-years) found that when such pop-ups interrupt a demanding cognitive task, participants spent little time viewing them and were more likely to miss suspicious cues and accept these updates compared to when they were viewed without the pressure to resume a suspended task [1]. The aim of the current experiment was to test an older adult sample (N = 29, all >60 years) using the same paradigm. We predicted that they would be more susceptible to malevolent pop-ups [2]; trusting them more than younger adults (e.g., [3]), and would attempt to resume the interrupted task faster to limit forgetting of encoded items. Phase 1 involved serial recall memory trials interrupted by genuine, mimicked, and low authority pop-ups. During phase 2, participants rated messages with unlimited time and gave reasons for their decisions. It was found that more than 70% of mimicked and low authority pop-ups were accepted in Phase 1 vs ~80% genuine pop-ups (and these were all approximately 10% higher than [1]). This was likely due to a greater tendency to ignore or miss suspicious content when performing under pressure, despite spending longer with messages and reporting high awareness of scam techniques than younger adults. Older adult participants were more suspicious during Phase 2 performing comparably to the younger adults in [1]. Factors that may impact older adult decisions relating to fraudulent computer communications are discussed, as well as theoretical and practical implications.

    Full details in the University publications repository