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A Vulnerable SystemThe History of Information Security in the Computer Age$
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Andrew J. Stewart

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9781501758942

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: January 2022

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501758942.001.0001

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Usable Security, Economics, and Psychology

Usable Security, Economics, and Psychology

(p.100) Chapter 6 Usable Security, Economics, and Psychology
A Vulnerable System

Andrew J. Stewart

Cornell University Press

This chapter addresses how the human user of a computer is in a prime position to act in ways that could compromise the security of the entire system. It looks at the harmful technocratic paternalism at the heart of the field of information security. The RAND Corporation and the early researchers had expected that a computer operating system could impose its will on the users of the computer, in effect forcing them to be secure. That philosophy was adopted by those who worked in the field of information security in the subsequent decades and manifested as a revealed preference for technological solutions. However, with the rise of email and the web, the user and their decisions became crucial to the security of the overall system. The possibility that security could be accomplished through technology alone was revealed to be a machine fantasy. The security of a computer is beholden to the whims of the user, and those whims are driven by the chaotic influence of economic motivations and psychological factors.

Keywords:   computer users, computers, information security, computer operating system, email, web, economics, psychology

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