Introducing the Cybersurvival Task: Assessing and Addressing Staff Beliefs about Effective Cyber Protection


James Nicholson, Lynne Coventry, and Pam Briggs, PaCT Lab, Northumbria University


Despite increased awareness of cybersecurity incidents and consequences, organisations still struggle to convince employees to comply with information security policies and engage in effective cyber prevention. Here we introduce and evaluate The Cybersurvival Task, a ranking task that highlights cybersecurity misconceptions amongst employees and that serves as a reflective exercise for security experts. We describe an initial deployment and refinement of the task in one organisation and a second deployment and evaluation in another. We show how the Cybersurvival Task could be used to detect ‘shadow security' cultures within an organisation and illustrate how a group discussion about the importance of different cyber behaviours led to the weakening of staff's cybersecurity positions (i.e. more disagreement with experts). We also discuss its use as a tool to inform organisational policy-making and the design of campaigns and training events, ensuring that they are better tailored to specific staff groups and designed to target problematic behaviours.

Open Access Media

USENIX is committed to Open Access to the research presented at our events. Papers and proceedings are freely available to everyone once the event begins. Any video, audio, and/or slides that are posted after the event are also free and open to everyone. Support USENIX and our commitment to Open Access.

@inproceedings {219418,
author = {James Nicholson and Lynne Coventry and Pam Briggs},
title = {Introducing the Cybersurvival Task: Assessing and Addressing Staff Beliefs about Effective Cyber Protection},
booktitle = {Fourteenth Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS 2018)},
year = {2018},
isbn = {978-1-939133-10-6},
address = {Baltimore, MD},
pages = {443--457},
url = {},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug