IDC seminar (7 Dec) Designing for security: Users are not the weakest link

(please note this is not the usual seminar time: 2pm on Monday in C204)

Dr. Sonia Chiasson (Carleton University)


There is a prevailing belief that users are the weakest link in the security chain. In this talk, I will discuss how this perspective is inherently counterproductive to achieving increased cyber security and explore alternatives with a higher chance of improving security.  Our research group explores how systems can be designed to better support secure behaviour and how user behaviour impacts security.  We investigate how underlying system and interaction design choices can lead to more secure systems by decreasing chances of misuse, errors, or exploitation of security mechanisms. I will present research examples from our recent work, including anti-phishing and privacy-preserving apps.


Sonia Chiasson is the Canada Research Chair in Human Oriented Computer Security and a faculty member in the School of Computer Science at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.  She is Deputy Scientific Director of SERENE-RISC, a Canadian Networks of Centers of Excellence for Knowledge Mobilization created to help protect Canadian individuals and organizations from online security and privacy threats. Her main research interests are in usable security and privacy: the intersection between human-computer interaction and computer security and privacy. She leads Carleton’s Human Oriented Research in Usable Security (CHORUS) research group.


Intern: Varshita Sher

varshitaVarshita is a recent graduate from University of Oxford where she was studying Master’s in Computer Science. She earned her undergraduate degree (Bachelors of Science (Honours)) in the same field from University of Delhi, India before moving to U.K. to pursue her masters. Her Master’s research combined psychology with Visual Analytics to question the stability of mathematical models (such as Weber’s law) that quantify human perception.

Her interests include focusing on pan-sector research areas to render visualizations that are more self-explanatory and efficient in context of Big Data along with paying close attention to the social, ethical and legal issues associated with it. She is currently collaborating with Middlesex University where she is serving as a Research Assistant on the project VALCRI (Visual Analytics for sense-making in Criminal Intelligence analysis), post which she will start working on the publication of her paper based on the Master’s thesis which earned her a distinction.

PNNL Collaboration

pnnlAshley Wheat recently made a visit to the Information Visualisation and Visual Analytics team at Pacific Northwestern National Laboratories (PNNL) in Tri-Cities, WA. He presented a seminar on his research in Understanding External Sensemaking in Intelligence Analysis. Ashley was also able to spend time with the researchers and developers at PNNL responsible for visual analytics tools such as IN-SPIRE, Scalable Reasoning System (SRS) and LiveWall.