A Research Framework and Initial Study of Browser Security for the Visually Impaired

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Elaine Lau and Zachary Peterson, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo


The growth of web-based malware and phishing attacks has catalyzed significant advances in the research and use of interstitial warning pages and modals by a browser prior to loading the content of a suspect site. These warnings commonly use visual cues to attract users' attention, including specialized iconography, color, and the placement and size of buttons to communicate the importance of the scenario. While the efficacy of visual techniques has improved safety for sighted users, these techniques are unsuitable for blind and visually impaired users. We attribute this not to a lack of interest or technical capability by browser manufactures, where universal design is a core tenet of their engineering practices, but instead a reflection of the very real dearth of research literature to inform their choices, exacerbated by a deficit of clear methodologies for conducting studies with this population. Indeed, the challenges are manifold. In this paper, we analyze and address the methodological challenges of conducting security and privacy research with a visually impaired population, and contribute a new set of methodological best practices when conducting a study of this kind. Using our methodology, we conduct a preliminary study analyzing the experiences of the visually impaired with browser security warnings, perform a thematic analysis identifying common challenges visually impaired users experience, and present some initial solutions that could improve security for this population.

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@inproceedings {285361,
author = {Elaine Lau and Zachary Peterson},
title = {A Research Framework and Initial Study of Browser Security for the Visually Impaired},
booktitle = {32nd USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 23)},
year = {2023},
isbn = {978-1-939133-37-3},
address = {Anaheim, CA},
pages = {4679--4696},
url = {https://www.usenix.org/conference/usenixsecurity23/presentation/lau},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug

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