How Geopolitical Change Causes People to Become (More) Vulnerable

Note: Presentation times are in Pacific Standard Time (PST).

Tuesday, January 24, 2023 - 10:30 am11:00 am

Lucy Simko, George Washington University


Computer security and privacy is critical for vulnerable and marginalized populations. Vulnerable populations might face more determined adversaries or higher consequences for security and privacy breaches. Vulnerability can be caused by change, like undergoing life changing events including environmental or manmade crises that can affect all humans at various stages in their lives. It is therefore of critical importance for computer security and privacy to understand the interactions between change and computer security and privacy. In this talk, I will explore this relationship based on four populations that experienced change: (1) refugees who moved to the united states; (2) Sudanese activist in the 2018-2019 Sudanese revolution; (3) those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic; (4) and those experiencing a Hurricane in the mainland United States in 2021. Based on my research with these populations, I describe three major themes that characterize the relationship between change and computer security and privacy: (1) Change creates different elements of one's threat model---actors, threats, assets---as well as different technical needs. (2) During a period of change, people may change how they prioritize computer security and privacy in response to other emergent needs. (3) When technology design is misaligned with the needs and uses of marginalized populations, it causes those populations to have to work harder to maintain security and privacy, exacerbating existing systemic inequalities during times of change. Based on this understanding of how change interacts with computer security and privacy, I recommend how we can design for change: by centering the needs of those affected by change and marginalization, reducing vulnerability for all.

Lucy Simko, George Washington University

Dr. Lucy Simko is a research scientist at the George Washington University. Her work focuses on the security and privacy-related needs and practices of populations during times of change. Her research has been published at IEEE Security & Privacy, PETS, CHI, and IDC, and she is the recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. She was recently a remote intern at the Max Planck Institute for Security and Privacy, where she investigated the use of technology during hurricanes. Lucy recently earned her PhD in Computer Science from the University of Washington’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering.
@conference {285599,
author = {Lucy Simko},
title = {How Geopolitical Change Causes People to Become (More) Vulnerable},
year = {2023},
address = {Santa Clara, CA},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = jan,