Proceedings: GI 2005

Gathering evidence: use of visual security cues in web browsers

Tara Whalen, Kori Inkpen

Proceedings of Graphics Interface 2005: Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, 9 - 11 May 2005, 137-144

  • BibTex

    author = {Whalen, Tara and Inkpen, Kori},
    title = {Gathering evidence: use of visual security cues in web browsers},
    booktitle = {Proceedings of Graphics Interface 2005},
    series = {GI 2005},
    year = {2005},
    issn = {0713-5424},
    isbn = {1-56881-265-5},
    location = {Victoria, British Columbia, Canada},
    pages = {137--144},
    numpages = {8},
    publisher = {Canadian Human-Computer Communications Society},
    address = {School of Computer Science, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada},


Web browsers support secure online transactions, and provide visual feedback mechanisms to inform the user about security. These mechanisms have had little evaluation to determine how easily they are noticed and how effectively they are used. This paper describes a preliminary study conducted to determine which elements are noted, which are ignored, and how easily they are found. We collected eyetracker data to study user's attention to browser security, and gathered additional subjective data through questionnaires. Our results demonstrated that while the lock icon is commonly viewed, its interactive capability is essentially ignored. We also found that certificate information is rarely used, and that people stop looking for security information after they have signed into a site. These initial results provide insights into how browser security cues might be improved.