A Mental Model of Smartphone Users' Attitudes toward Security and Privacy Issues

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Smartphones are now used by people of all kinds and in recent years usage has greatly increased. Smartphone users access the internet, often daily, without a detailed understanding of how it works or an adequate awareness of its security and privacy aspects. It is therefore crucial, given that smartphones store and transmit sensitive personal and private data, for users to become more aware of the security and privacy implications of using this technology. Considering this, the primary objective of this research is to explore the extent to which smartphone users are aware of the potential security risks when using their smartphone in order to develop a mental model representing the attitudes of smartphone users towards protecting their personal data. Also, this dissertation investigates the awareness levels smartphone users have of different security-related parameters. The parameters used in this research are using public Wi-Fi networks, clicking on links received while using the internet on smartphones, and taking Terms of Services agreements into consideration during the installation of applications or while using websites. In addition, we compared the awareness levels of different user groups categorised according to their technical background. By users with a technical background we mean those with IT expertise. An online quantitative survey was chosen as the most suitable strategy for answering the research question in terms of measuring the awareness degree, while for developing the mental model an online qualitative survey was conducted. 100 individuals responded to the quantitative survey, and 20 individuals responded to the online qualitative questionnaire. The results of the quantitative survey indicated that most of the group of respondents with technical background have a high level of awareness regarding security and privacy risks to their smartphones, based on the three parameters specified. On the other hand, it was noted that respondents with no technical background have a low level of concern with respect to the security risks presented to them. In addition, the findings of the qualitative study show a range of concerns and attitudes towards the protection of personal data from security and privacy threats.