Obstacles to the Adoption of Secure Communication Tools


The computer security community has advocated widespread adoption of secure communication tools to counter mass surveillance. Several popular personal communication tools (e.g., WhatsApp, iMessage) have adopted end-to-end encryption, and many new tools (e.g., Signal, Telegram) have been launched with security as a key selling point. However it remains unclear if users understand what protection these tools offer, and if they value that protection. In this study, we interviewed 60 participants about their experience with different communication tools and their perceptions of the tools’ security properties. We found that the adoption of secure communication tools is hindered by fragmented user bases and incompatible tools. Furthermore, the vast majority of participants did not understand the essential concept of end-to-end encryption, limiting their motivation to adopt secure tools. We identified a number of incorrect mental models that underpinned participants’ beliefs.

Proceedings of the 2017 IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy