BYU team recognized for email encryption systems research

The researchers conducted their study with 25 pairs of novice users.
The researchers conducted their study with 25 pairs of novice users. | File photo

Research conducted by a team from Brigham Young University into the user experience of email encryption systems recently won an honorable mention at the 2016 Computer Human Interaction conference.

 The researchers consisted of Jeff Andersen, Scott Heidbrink, Mark O’Neil, Elham Vaziripour and Justin Wu, and was directed by Ph.D. student Scott Ruoti with faculty advisers Kent Seamons and Daniel Appala, both computer science professors. They focused on the balance of security and usability.

“You might be interested in security and want your email to be secure, but in a work setting your job is to send email and get work done,” Seamons said. “As a result, security gets brushed aside.”

The researchers conducted their study with 25 pairs of novice users, a unique approach as compared to previous studies. They found that users prefer systems that integrate with existing email accounts and that users felt more trust in systems that provided details throughout the encryption process.

“I was surprised at how much more effective the paired participant studies were than the single-user studies,” Ruoti, the lead author of the study, said. “As a study coordinator, it was clear how much more naturally participants acted when using our new methodology.”

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