A Comparative Usability Study of Key Management in Secure Email


Scott Ruoti, University of Tennessee; Jeff Andersen, Tyler Monson, Daniel Zappala, and Kent Seamons, Brigham Young University


We conducted a user study that compares three secure email tools that share a common user interface and differ only by key management scheme: passwords, public key directory (PKD), and identity-based encryption (IBE). Our work is the first comparative (i.e., A/B) usability evaluation of three different key management schemes and utilizes a standard quantitative metric for cross-system comparisons. We also share qualitative feedback from participants that provides valuable insights into user attitudes regarding each key management approach and secure email generally. The study serves as a model for future secure email research with A/B studies, standard metrics, and the two-person study methodology.

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@inproceedings {219420,
author = {Scott Ruoti and Jeff Andersen and Tyler Monson and Daniel Zappala and Kent Seamons},
title = {A Comparative Usability Study of Key Management in Secure Email},
booktitle = {Fourteenth Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS 2018)},
year = {2018},
isbn = {978-1-939133-10-6},
address = {Baltimore, MD},
pages = {375--394},
url = {https://www.usenix.org/conference/soups2018/presentation/ruoti},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug