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Weary Warriors: Reducing the Impact of Wishful Thinking & Fatigue on Information Security Decisions

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Wishful thinking won’t protect your data and systems. Without understanding two key psychological constructs, motivated reasoning and decision fatigue, people will continue to put their trust in software alone to keep their systems safe – and then shift responsibility for adverse events onto end users. For example, those impacted by motivated reasoning will reuse passwords without believing it might actually have an impact. People who experience decision fatigue avoid decisions or choose the least effortful action. However, there are steps organisations and individuals can take to recognise and cope with these parts of human nature – are you prepared?

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Weary Warriors: Reducing the Impact of Wishful Thinking & Fatigue on Information Security Decisions

  1. 1. Dr. Margaret Cunningham, Principal Research Scientist Forcepoint, X-Labs Weary Warriors: Reducing the Impact of Wishful Thinking & Fatigue on Information Security Decisions 4 June, 2019
  2. 2. Weary Warriors: Reducing the Impact of Wishful Thinking & Fatigue on Information Security Decisions Select the option that fits you best: - I use the exact same password on multiple sites. ¯_(ツ)_/¯ - I change my passwords a little bit—Password1! is different from Passw0rd, right? - I never reuse passwords. - I use a password manager. Slido Q1
  3. 3. Weary Warriors: Reducing the Impact of Wishful Thinking & Fatigue on Information Security Decisions 40-50% of users reuse passwords
  4. 4. Weary Warriors: Reducing the Impact of Wishful Thinking & Fatigue on Information Security Decisions 46% of organizations don’t change their security strategy after an attack!
  5. 5. Weary Warriors: Reducing the Impact of Wishful Thinking & Fatigue on Information Security Decisions Definitions & Outcomes • Motivated Reasoning • Decision Fatigue Strategies & Solutions Overview
  6. 6. Weary Warriors: Reducing the Impact of Wishful Thinking & Fatigue on Information Security Decisions • “Wishful Thinking” and self- deception • Avoidance of cognitive dissonance • Evaluating problems in favor of preferred outcomes Motivated Reasoning is…
  7. 7. Weary Warriors: Reducing the Impact of Wishful Thinking & Fatigue on Information Security Decisions • Inadequate solutions based on biased information • Aversion to change • Rationalization, and denial, of poor choices Impact of Motivated Reasoning
  8. 8. Weary Warriors: Reducing the Impact of Wishful Thinking & Fatigue on Information Security Decisions • Decision-making draws on finite mental resources • Our capabilities degrade over the course of each day • Helped by food, cured by rest Decision Fatigue is…
  9. 9. Weary Warriors: Reducing the Impact of Wishful Thinking & Fatigue on Information Security Decisions • Decision avoidance, relying on defaults or “status quo” • Difficulty weighing pros & cons of multiple options • Short-term > long-term • Selecting the least effortful choice Impact of Decision Fatigue
  10. 10. Weary Warriors: Reducing the Impact of Wishful Thinking & Fatigue on Information Security Decisions • When faced with “facts that don’t fit” we ignore them • When fatigued, we pick the easy way out – if we make a choice at all Motivated Reasoning + Decision Fatigue = Bad Decisions
  11. 11. Weary Warriors: Reducing the Impact of Wishful Thinking & Fatigue on Information Security Decisions Strategies & Solutions 1. Recognize the Signs 2. Be Choosy about Choosing 3. Plan & Prioritize
  12. 12. Weary Warriors: Reducing the Impact of Wishful Thinking & Fatigue on Information Security Decisions • Impaired self-control & impulsivity • Procrastination • Decision avoidance • Irritability • Ignoring contradicting opinions or facts? Recognize the Signs
  13. 13. Weary Warriors: Reducing the Impact of Wishful Thinking & Fatigue on Information Security Decisions • Cut options • Concrete examples • Categorize • Condition for Complexity Be Choosy about Choosing1 1 Sheena Iyengar, “The Art of Choosing”
  14. 14. Weary Warriors: Reducing the Impact of Wishful Thinking & Fatigue on Information Security Decisions • Plan daily decisions in advance • Prioritize important decisions for the morning • Sleep on it – when possible • Use tools & establish decision-making processes to support unplanned or late- day choices Plan & Prioritize
  15. 15. Weary Warriors: Reducing the Impact of Wishful Thinking & Fatigue on Information Security Decisions 5 KEY TAKE AWAYS
  16. 16. Weary Warriors: Reducing the Impact of Wishful Thinking & Fatigue on Information Security Decisions • Motivated reasoning leads to biased decision making & denial of alternative solutions that differ from existing practices • Decision fatigue leads to decision avoidance, or selection of easier, short-term solutions • Recognize the signs: procrastination, distraction, impulsivity, irritability, risk-aversion • Use choice strategies: cut, categorize, concrete examples, & conditioning for complexity • And, when possible, plan and prioritize to optimize decision-making 5 KEY TAKE AWAYS
  17. 17. Weary Warriors: Reducing the Impact of Wishful Thinking & Fatigue on Information Security Decisions Follow-up questions or comments? Margaret.Cunningham@Forcepoint.com Or, visit my Forcepoint Author Page: www.forcepoint.com/company/biographies/margaret-cunningham Recent White Papers: Exploring the Grey Space of Cybersecurity with Insights from Cognitive Science Thinking about Thinking: Exploring Bias in Cybersecurity with Insights from Cognitive Science

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