Science Foundation Ireland

Paper Highlight: Decoding the Paradox of Security Advice

CONNECT Researcher Dr Hazel Murray at Munster Technological University Unveils the Complex Landscape of Security Advice

What’s this paper about?
You are probably constantly getting advice on how to keep your online accounts safe—everything from creating strong passwords to enabling two-factor authentication. But how effective is this advice, really? Our paper dives into this question by categorizing 270 different pieces of authentication advice and surveying the actual costs—both in time and effort—of following these guidelines.

What have you discovered?
We’ve discovered that the landscape of security advice is far from uniform. A staggering 41% of the guidelines we examined are in direct conflict with other existing advice. This not only sows confusion but also contributes to significant user frustration. This inconsistency leads to user frustration. We cant even agree what is worth doing with 71% of users disagreeing on the value of a given piece of advice. Our research doesn’t just highlight these issues; it offers a methodology to systematically assess the true efficacy of security recommendations.

 So what?
Why is this research significant? Our study underscores the critical importance of conducting a cost-benefit analysis when formulating security policies. We’ve discovered that organizational investments in security infrastructure yield more effective outcomes than approaches that impose cumbersome requirements on users. This insight equips companies with the data needed to develop more secure, user-friendly services.

Read the full paper here (pdf).


CONNECT is the world leading Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Future Networks and Communications. CONNECT is funded under the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centres Programme and is co-funded under the European Regional Development Fund. We engage with over 35 companies including large multinationals, SMEs and start-ups. CONNECT brings together world-class expertise from ten Irish academic institutes to create a one-stop-shop for telecommunications research, development and innovation.

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