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Mismorphism: a Semiotic Model of Computer Security Circumvention (Extended Version)
Sean W. Smith, Ross Koppel, Jim Blythe, Vijay Kothari
Dartmouth TR2015-768

Abstract: In real world domains, from healthcare to power to finance, we deploy computer systems intended to streamline and improve the activities of human agents in the corresponding non-cyber worlds. However, talking to actual users (instead of just computer security experts) reveals endemic circumvention of the computer-embedded rules. Good-intentioned users, trying to get their jobs done, systematically work around security and other controls embedded in their IT systems.

This paper reports on our work compiling a large corpus of such incidents and developing a model based on semiotic triads to examine security circumvention. This model suggests that mismorphisms---mappings that fail to preserve structure---lie at the heart of circumvention scenarios; differential perceptions and needs explain users' actions. We support this claim with empirical data from the corpus.


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   Sean W. Smith, Ross Koppel, Jim Blythe, and Vijay Kothari, "Mismorphism: a Semiotic Model of Computer Security Circumvention (Extended Version)." Dartmouth Computer Science Technical Report TR2015-768, March 2015.


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