You’re in the middle of doing something on your computer and suddenly a pop-up appears, warning you about some security issue. What do you do? Well a study has revealed that the vast majority of us just ignore them.
They’re irritating that’s for sure, but more often than not they’re actually vitally important to keeping your computer protected from viruses, ransomware and worse.
The study by Google engineers and Brigham Young University discovered that the real cause for our indifference might not actually be our fault.
Researchers discovered that these pop-ups are far less effective because of something called ‘dual task interference’. It’s a neural limitation where even simple tasks become impossible without our brains suffering significant performance loss.
Quite simply, our brain’s instinctual reaction is to ignore it.
“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.”
According to lead author of the study Jeff Jenkins, there is a solution: “You can mitigate this problem simply by finessing the timing of the warnings,”
“Waiting to display a warning to when people are not busy doing something else increases their security behaviour substantially.”
The problem of course is that so few cybersecurity firms consider this when building their programs.
Many assume that we already know the dangers of viruses and thus value them above anything else.