“...better to use a lock screen than to worry about saving a few seconds of time”: Effect of Fear Appeal in the Context of Smartphone Locking Behavior


Yusuf Albayram, Mohammad Maifi Hasan Khan, Theodore Jensen, and Nhan Nguyen, University of Connecticut


Using a secure screen lock mechanism is important to prevent unauthorized access and compromise of valuable data stored on smartphones. However, many users still choose not to use any such mechanism and often state inconvenience as the main reason. In this paper, we argue that lack of risk awareness plays an important role behind many users' insecure behavior rather than inconvenience, which can be addressed by communicating risks more effectively. To test this hypothesis, we designed an informational video explaining the risks of unauthorized access to smartphones with no screen lock. We compared a control group (n = 114) to a treatment group that viewed the video (n = 114) in terms of risk perceptions, concerns, and attitudes towards secure screen lock methods. Subsequently, a follow-up study was conducted to see whether the video was effective in changing participants' behavior or not (i.e., enabling a secure screen lock). We found statistically significant differences between treatment and control group participants in terms of perceived severity, risk awareness, response cost, and privacy and security concerns. Furthermore, the follow-up study revealed that significantly more participants in the treatment group enabled a secure screen lock than those in the control group (48/96 (50%) vs. 21/98 (21%), respectively). Finally, we present our analysis of qualitative data to further explain participants' behavior.

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@inproceedings {205170,
author = {Yusuf Albayram and Mohammad Maifi Hasan Khan and Theodore Jensen and Nhan Nguyen},
title = {{\textquotedblleft}...better to use a lock screen than to worry about saving a few seconds of time{\textquotedblright}: Effect of Fear Appeal in the Context of Smartphone Locking Behavior},
booktitle = {Thirteenth Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security ({SOUPS} 2017)},
year = {2017},
isbn = {978-1-931971-39-3},
address = {Santa Clara, CA},
pages = {49--63},
url = {https://www.usenix.org/conference/soups2017/technical-sessions/presentation/albayram},
publisher = {{USENIX} Association},
month = jul,

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