Let’s not Become Password Huggers: Passwordless Guest Post on SC

Archive for December, 2020

Let’s not Become Password Huggers: Passwordless Guest Post on SC

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SC Magazine has a guest blog from me on passwordless authentication, and the importance of addressing usability, manageability, and defensibility.

Change happens at an uneven pace. Take the latest smartphone. The camera still has a lovely shutter click, though digital cameras have long since surpassed shutter cameras. The QWERTY keyboard was designed to solve the problem of jamming in 19th century typewriters. And yes, to open apps and websites alike, we’re still using an idea conceived of 60 years ago for mainframes: the password.

We cling to the password. It’s security’s first, and sometimes disastrously, last line of defense. As surely as we know the camera doesn’t have to click, we know the password can be replaced by stronger factors. In fact, with adaptive and contextual controls, replacing the password means greater security and user experience benefits.

What’s holding us back from moving forward with passwordless?

Read the full article here: Three ways we can move the industry to passwordless authentication

Cyber Security Design Studies, Papers, Books, and Resources

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The cyber security design principles emphasize psychology over technology. Here is a collection of scientific studies, research papers, design books, and related resources.

This is part of a series on designing cyber security capabilities. To see other articles in the series, including a full list of design principles, click here.

Paths They Take

Number of steps; Familiarity of each step; Friction at each step.

Introduction to Customer Journey Mapping (ebook)

Flow Design Processes – Focusing on the Users’ Needs

Scientific Articles

Shosuke Suzuki, Victoria M. Lawlor, Jessica A. Cooper, Amanda R. Arulpragasam, Michael T. Treadway. Distinct regions of the striatum underlying effort, movement initiation and effort discounting. Nature Human Behaviour, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/s41562-020-00972-y

G. Suri, G. Sheppes, C. Schwartz, J. J. Gross. Patient Inertia and the Status Quo Bias: When an Inferior Option Is Preferred. Psychological Science, 2013; DOI: 10.1177/0956797613479976

Julia Watzek, Sarah F. Brosnan. Capuchin and rhesus monkeys show sunk cost effects in a psychomotor task. Scientific Reports, 2020; 10 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-77301-wBongiorno,

Basu, R., Gebauer, R., Herfurth, T. et al. The orbitofrontal cortex maps future navigational goals. Nature, 2021 // How do goal maps guide the brain toward a destination? 

C., Zhou, Y., Kryven, M. et al. Vector-based pedestrian navigation in cities. Nat Comput Sci, 2021 DOI: 10.1038/s43588-021-00130-y. // People don’t follow the shortest path. They follow the easiest path to recall and follow. That is, the pointiest path.

Li Zheng, Zhiyao Gao, Andrew S. McAvan, Eve A. Isham, Arne D. Ekstrom. Partially overlapping spatial environments trigger reinstatement in hippocampus and schema representations in prefrontal cortex. Nature Communications, 2021 // Navigating an environment that’s sort of similar but not, is harder than navigating an entirely new environment.


Choices They Make

Number of choices; Predictability of the choice; Cognitive load of each choice.

Nudge to Health: Harnessing Decision Research to Promote Health Behavior

Sludge: “activities that are essentially nudging for evil”

Intentional and Unintentional Sludge


Choosing Not to Choose, by Cass Sunstein

How to Decide: Simple Tools for Making Better Choices, by Annie Duke

Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, by Kathryn Schulz

Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, by Adam Grant

Scientific Articles

Sunstein, C. (2020). Sludge AuditsBehavioural Public Policy, 1-20. doi:10.1017/bpp.2019.32

Soman, Dilip and Cowen, Daniel and Kannan, Niketana and Feng, Bing, Seeing Sludge: Towards a Dashboard to Help Organizations Recognize Impedance to End-User Decisions and Action (September 27, 2019). Research Report Series Behaviourally Informed Organizations Partnership; Behavioural Economics in Action at Rotman, September 2019

Chadd, I., Filiz-Ozbay, E. & Ozbay, E.Y. The relevance of irrelevant informationExp Econ (2020). // Unavailable options and irrelevant information often cause people to make bad choices. The likelihood of poor decisions is even greater when people are presented with both.

Thomas L. Saltsman, Mark D. Seery, Deborah E. Ward, Veronica M. Lamarche, Cheryl L. Kondrak. Is satisficing really satisfying? Satisficers exhibit greater threat than maximizers during choice overload. Psychophysiology (2020). // To get past frustration, satisficers make a speedy choice instead of thinking too deeply about the choices being presented.

Stuart Mills. Personalized Nudging. Cambridge University Press (2020). // Choice architects can personalize both the choices being nudged towards (choice personalization) and the method of nudging itself (delivery personalization).

Stephanie Mertens, Mario Herberz, Ulf J. J. Hahnel, Tobias Brosch. The effectiveness of nudging: A meta-analysis of choice architecture interventions across behavioral domains. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2022. // Over 450 strategies analyzed, with nudges across three groups: “information,” “structure” and “assistance.” Strong proof of nudging over mandates for leading to behavior change.

Gabrielle S. Adams, Benjamin A. Converse, Andrew H. Hales, Leidy E. Klotz. People systematically overlook subtractive changes. Nature, 2021. // People approaching a problem rarely think removing something as a solution. People almost always add something whether it helps or not.

Cary Frydman, Ian Krajbich. Using Response Times to Infer Others’ Private Information: An Application to Information Cascades. Management Science, 2021. // If people in a group pause when making a decision, other people are twice as likely to break from the group to make their own choice.

Narayan Ramasubbu and Indranil R. Bardhan. Reconfiguring for Agility: Examining the Performance Implications for Project Team Autonomy Through an Organizational Policy Experiment. MIS Quarterly, 2021. // More freedom means greater productivity and better customer satisfaction. By contrast, more top-down governance results in lower productivity and customer satisfaction.

Blair R. K. Shevlin, Stephanie M. Smith, Jan Hausfeld, Ian Krajbich. High-value decisions are fast and accurate, inconsistent with diminishing value sensitivity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2022.

Nancy Padilla-Coreano, Kanha Batra, Makenzie Patarino, Zexin Chen, et al. Cortical ensembles orchestrate social competition through hypothalamic outputsNature, 2022. // Study on mice to determine how the brain encodes social rank and “winning mindset”.


The behavior we want people to perform.

Scientific Articles

Hall, Jonathan D. and Madsen, Joshua, Can Behavioral Interventions Be Too Salient? Evidence From Traffic Safety Messages (September 16, 2020).

Robison, M. K., Unsworth, N., & Brewer, G. A. Examining the effects of goal-setting, feedback, and incentives on sustained attention. (August 7, 2021). // Providing feedback on performance is a strong motivator and sustains attention over a longer-term than goal-setting alone.

Kevin P. Grubiak, Andrea Isoni, Robert Sugden, Mengjie Wang, Jiwei Zheng. Taking the New Year’s Resolution Test seriously: eliciting individuals’ judgements about self-control and spontaneity. Behavioural Public Policy, 2022. // “Individuals often make resolutions in January to maintain healthy lifestyle regimes — for example to eat better or exercise more often — then fail to keep them. Behavioural scientists frequently interpret such behaviour as evidence of a conflict between two ‘selves’ of a person — a Planner (in charge of self-control) and a Doer (who responds spontaneously to the temptations of the moment). Public policies designed to ‘nudge’ people towards healthy lifestyles are often justified on the grounds that people think of their Planners as their true selves and disown the actions of their Doers. However, the authors argue this justification overlooks the possibility that people value spontaneity as well as self-control, and approve of their own flexible attitudes to resolutions.”

Qi Su, Alex McAvoy and Joshua B. Plotkin. Evolution of cooperation with contextualized behavior. Science Advances, 2022.

Gareth J. Hollands, Juliet A. Usher-Smith, Rana Hasan, Florence Alexander, Natasha Clarke, Simon J. Griffin. Visualising health risks with medical imaging for changing recipients’ health behaviours and risk factors: Systematic review with meta-analysis. PLOS Medicine, 2022. // Improved visualization leads to risk-reducing behaviors. 


Barriers preventing people from completing the behavior.

Scientific Articles

Helen Demetriou, Bill Nicholl. Empathy is the mother of invention: Emotion and cognition for creativity in the classroom. Improving Schools (2021).

Rachel C. Forbes and Jennifer E. Stellar. When the Ones We Love Misbehave: Exploring Moral Processes Within Intimate Bonds. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2021 // This applies to security champion and security advocate programs. Tighter relationships mean more forgiveness, which in turn provides more room for the security team to maneuver. 


Benefits of completing the behavior.

Scientific Articles

Nicole Abi-Esber, Jennifer Abel, Francesca Gino, Juliana Schroeder. Just Letting You Know: Underestimating Others Desire for Constructive FeedbackJournal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2022. // A series of five experiments involving 1,984 participants to measure how much people underestimate others’ desire for constructive feedback. People want feedback.

Flow (Concentration) 

Benefits of completing the behavior.

Scientific Articles

loria Mark, Mary Czerwinski, and Shamsi T. Iqbal. Effects of Individual Differences in Blocking Workplace Distractions. Proceedings of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 2018. // Security needs to be extremely careful not to overload people’s already overloaded attention. Check this for strategies people use to manage (ignore?) notifications. 

Richard Huskey, Justin Robert Keene, Shelby Wilcox, Xuanjun (Jason) Gong, Robyn Adams, Christina J Najera, Flexible and Modular Brain Network Dynamics Characterize Flow Experiences During Media Use: A Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging StudyJournal of Communication, 2021. // The sweet spot is when “activities are engaging enough to fully involve someone to the point of barely being distracted, but not so difficult that the activity becomes frustrating.”

Training (Ignorance)

Scientific Articles

Nesra Yannier, Scott E. Hudson, Kenneth R. Koedinger, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, Yuko Munakata, Sabine Doebel, Daniel L. Schwartz, Louis Deslauriers, Logan McCarty, Kristina Callaghan, Elli J. Theobald, Scott Freeman, Katelyn M. Cooper, Sara E. Brownell. Active learning: “Hands-on” meets “minds-on”. Science, 2020 // It’s no surprise that hands-on training exceeds lecture. But who does that in security? These researchers evaluate and share ways to make learning active. 


40 Clever and Creative Bus Stop Advertisements

Scientific Articles

Vadiveloo, M. K., Dixon, L. B., & Elbel, B. (2011). Consumer purchasing patterns in response to calorie labeling legislation in New York City. The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 8(1), 51-51.

Fernandes, D., Lynch, J. G., & Netemeyer, R. G. (2014). Financial literacy, financial education, and downstream financial behaviors. Management Science, 60(8), 1861-1883.

Beisswingert, B. M., Zhang, K., Goetz, T., Fang, P., & Fischbacher, U. (2015). The effects of subjective loss of control on risk-taking behavior: the mediating role of anger. Frontiers in psychology, 6, 774.

Yana Fandakova, Elliott G Johnson, Simona Ghetti. Distinct neural mechanisms underlie subjective and objective recollection and guide memory-based decision making. eLife, 2021. // Memory involves both recall of specific details (who, where, when) and feelings of remembering and reliving past events. New research shows that these objective and subjective memories function independently, involve different parts of the brain, and that we make decisions based on subjective memory.

Elizabeth A. Minton, T. Bettina Cornwell, Hong Yuan. I know what you are thinking: How theory of mind is employed in product evaluations. Journal of Business Research, 2021

Adrian R. Walker, Danielle J. Navarro, Ben R. Newell, Tom Beesley. Protection from uncertainty in the exploration/exploitation trade-off. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 2021.


More people, better technology.

Scientific Articles



Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel H. Pink

Scientific Articles

Gneezy, U., & Rustichini, A. (2000). A Fine is a Price. The Journal of Legal Studies, 29(1), 1–17. doi: 10.1086/468061

Rey-Biel, Pedro & Gneezy, Uri & Meier, Stephan. (2011). When and Why Incentives (Don’t) Work to Modify Behavior. Journal of Economic Perspectives. 25. 191-210. 10.2307/41337236.

University of Pennsylvania. (2021, January 19). Money matters to happiness–perhaps more than previously thought

Johnny Långstedt. How will our Values Fit Future Work? An Empirical Exploration of Basic Values and Susceptibility to Automation. Labour & Industry: a journal of the social and economic relations of work, 2021. // A look at the intrinsic value people feel from doing the work.

Georgia Clay, Christopher Mlynski, Franziska M. Korb, Thomas Goschke, and Veronika Job. Rewarding cognitive effort increases the intrinsic value of mental labor. PNAS, 2022. // If people are rewarded for their effort, it motivates them to seek further challenging tasks that are not rewarded.



How to Measure Anything in Cybersecurity Risk, by Douglas W. Hubbard, Richard Seiersen

Scientific Articles

Adam Beautement, Ingolf Becker, Simon Parkin, Kat Krol, and M. Angela Sasse. 2016. Productive security: a scalable methodology for analysing employee security behaviours. In Proceedings of the Twelfth USENIX Conference on Usable Privacy and Security (SOUPS ’16). USENIX Association, USA, 253–270.

Behavior Economics

From “Economic Man” to Behavioral Economics

Related Books

  • The design of everyday things, by Don Norman
  • Designing for the digital age: How to create human-centered products and services, by Kim Goodwin
  • Design research: Methods and perspectives, by Brenda Laurel
  • User experience revolution, by Paul Boag


Does security have a design problem? Designing Security for Systems that are Bigger on the Inside.

How does design apply to securing application development and DevOps? Securing without Slowing.

How does design apply to BYOD and Cloud apps? Security Design Strategies for the Age of BYO.

How does design apply to blue teaming? Design Thinking for Blue Teams.

Design Thinking for Blue Teams at Converge Detroit

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Usability versus security is stupid. It forces us to choose one or the other. It excuses security breaches under the guise of usability. It automatically pits us against them, builders against breakers, developers against defenders. A better approach is to view security like usability: they happen where man meets machine. At that moment of meeting, what factors in human psychology and industrial design are at play? And suppose we could pause time. Suppose we could tease out those factors. Could we design a better experience, design a better outcome, design a better path to the future?

Recorded for Converge Detroit 2020

Watch more videos on my YouTube channel.

Killing Passwords with Infosecurity Magazine

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Back in September, Gartner detailed its top eight security projects for the coming year. Among those was the concept of ‘passwordless’ authentication, where a second factor such as a known asset like a phone, tablet, keyfob or smart watch can be used instead of a password.

Excerpt from: Interview: J Wolfgang Goerlich, Advisory CISO, Duo Security (Cisco)

Speaking to Infosecurity, Goerlich cited a talk at the 2004 RSA Conference, where Bill Gates said that the password is dead, and Goerlich commented that “16 years later we’re still trying to kill it.” He said that to enable a passwordless strategy, you need both the equipment and technology to enable it, but mostly you need “to have momentum in the organization and a reason to do it.”

However, now that everyone carries a biometric authenticator in their pocket, has hardware in place and given the fact that security wants to enable users, why do passwords still exist? 

Read the full article: https://www.infosecurity-magazine.com/interviews/interview-wolfgang-cisco-duo/

Wolf’s Additional Thoughts

What leads one innovation to succeed? What leads another innovation to stall? We need standards, infrastructure, and critical mass. But these come often out of order and require a spark to bring it all together. Sixteen years after Bill Gates declared the password dead, we’ve reached the inflection point. It’s about to get exciting.

The final thought in the article is “He concluded by saying that increasing trust in authentication is vital for passwordless to succeed, as today’s good factor is bypassed tomorrow. “

My strong recommendation is pairing passwordless with additional anti-fraud measures. Include the device identification in the authentication. Include behavior analytics (where, when, how) to further bolster trust in the authentication. We can predict criminals will work around these authentication methods, so let’s move now to put in place compensating controls to detect and prevent their next move.

This post is an excerpt from a press article. To see other media mentions and press coverage, click to view the Media page or the News category. Do you want to interview Wolf for a similar article? Contact Wolf through his media request form.