Study: Security Warnings Ignored Because of Bad Timing

Error and warning messages that appear while users are doing other things are largely ignored, research from BYU and Google suggests.
Error and warning messages that appear while users are doing other things are largely ignored, research from BYU and Google suggests.

In-brief: Up to 90 percent of users ignore security alerts and other warnings that appear while they’re busy performing other tasks, research from Google and Brigham Young University.

New research conducted by Brigham Young University, in conjunction with Google, goes some way towards proving what most of us long suspected: users ignore security warnings because they’re distracting. Really distracting.

In fact, the status quo of warning messages that exists – with the warnings appearing haphazardly while users are typing, watching a video or uploading files results in up to 90 percent of users disregarding them.

From the report, on BYU’s web site:

Researchers found these times are less effective because of “dual task interference,” a neural limitation where even simple tasks can’t be simultaneously performed without significant performance loss. Or, in human terms, multitasking.

“We found that the brain can’t handle multitasking very well,” said study coauthor and BYU information systems professor Anthony Vance. “Software developers categorically present these messages without any regard to what the user is doing. They interrupt us constantly and our research shows there’s a high penalty that comes by presenting these messages at random times.”

Source: | Brigham Young University

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