Neural underpinnings of website legitimacy and familiarity detection: An fNIRS study

Ajaya Neupane, Nitesh Saxena, Leanne Hirshfield

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

In this paper, we study the neural underpinnings relevant to user-centered web security through the lens of functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). Specifically, we design and conduct a fNIRS study to pursue a thorough investigation of users’ processing of legitimate vs. illegitimate and familiar vs. unfamiliar websites. We pinpoint the neural activity in these tasks as well as the brain areas that control such activity. We show that, at the neurological level, users process the legitimate websites differently from the illegitimate websites when subject to phishing attacks. Similarly, we show that users exhibit marked differences in the way their brains process the previously familiar websites from unfamiliar websites. These findings have several defensive and offensive implications. In particular, we discuss how these differences may be used by the system designers in the future to differentiate between legitimate and illegitimate websites automatically based on neural signals. Similarly, we discuss the potential for future malicious attackers, with access to neural signals, in compromising the privacy of users by detecting whether a website is previously familiar or unfamiliar to the user. Compared to prior research, our novelty lies in several aspects. First, we employ a neuroimaging methodology (fNIRS) not tapped into by prior security research for the problem domain we are studying. Second, we provide a focused study design and comprehensive investigation of the neural processing underlying the specific tasks of legitimate vs. illegitimate and familiar vs. unfamiliar websites. Third, we use an experimental set-up much more amenable to real-world settings, compared to previous fMRI studies. Beyond these scientific innovations, our work also serves to corroborate and extend several of the findings of the prior literature with independent methodologies, tools and settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication26th International World Wide Web Conference, WWW 2017
PublisherInternational World Wide Web Conferences Steering Committee
Pages1571-1580
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)9781450349130
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017
Event26th International World Wide Web Conference, WWW 2017 - Perth, Australia
Duration: Apr 3 2017Apr 7 2017

Publication series

Name26th International World Wide Web Conference, WWW 2017

Other

Other26th International World Wide Web Conference, WWW 2017
CountryAustralia
CityPerth
Period4/3/174/7/17

Keywords

  • FNIRS
  • Phishing detection
  • Privacy attacks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Computer Networks and Communications

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  • Cite this

    Neupane, A., Saxena, N., & Hirshfield, L. (2017). Neural underpinnings of website legitimacy and familiarity detection: An fNIRS study. In 26th International World Wide Web Conference, WWW 2017 (pp. 1571-1580). [3052702] (26th International World Wide Web Conference, WWW 2017). International World Wide Web Conferences Steering Committee. https://doi.org/10.1145/3038912.3052702