Jun 20 2017

Visualization for Mental Models of Website Certificates

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Users that are unaware of dangerous online situations can find themselves victim of identity theft, phishing scams, and other spoofing related network attacks [2]. This paper focuses on the design and implementation of an interface to educate a non-expert computer user about basic browser security concepts related to website certificates. A website certificate is a cryptographic data structure that can enable encrypted communication, and also provide website identity information to help avoid fraud. Where websites have such certificates, major web browsers show indicators about them, but few ordinary users understand them. Building mental models promotes better decision making in online security situations [2]. Advanced users are more likely to make safer decisions online since developed mental models are positively correlated with expertise in computer security [1]. Education develops mental models and clarifies misconceptions of online dangers [2], allowing users to make safer online decisions. We believe that ordinary users can understand certificates, and that interactive visualizations will help build mental models to facilitate this understanding.