The Usable Security Empirical Research Lab

Welcome to the home page for the Usable Security Empirical Research (USER) lab at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK). The USER lab sits at the intersection of cybersecurity, privacy, and usability research. We measure and evaluate the effectiveness of existing security solutions, explore mental models and perceptions related to cybersecurity and privacy, and build novel security technologies to improve the lives of users the world around. In contrast to most security research labs, our research group integrates HCI methods to ensure that we properly understand the needs of users and that the technologies we build meet real-world needs and are used correctly. Our research group’s work has been published at top cybersecurity (IEEE S&P, USENIX Security, ACM CCS) and top HCI (CHI, UIST, UbiComp) venues.


Recent News

Two papers accepted at ACSAC 2021

We are excited to have two papers accepted at ACSAC 2021! First, The Emperor’s New Autofill Framework: A Security Analysis of Autofill on iOS and Android. This paper examines the security of password autofill frameworks built into Android and iOS, finding significant issues with each. Second, Systematization of Password Manager Use Cases and Design Paradigms. This paper systematizes how users leverage password managers and how password managers are implemented to support those use cases. This is a critical paper for anyone looking to design user studies of password managers.


Jeremy Clark recently presented on our systematization of knowledge on securing email SoK: Securing Email—A Stakeholder-Based Analysis at the 2021 International Conference on Financial Cryptography and Data Security (FC). This paper helps describe the evolution of secure email, the challenges preventing widespread adoption, and directions for future project. Click on the link to the paper to see the video of the presentation.


Sean Oesch recently presented on his paper Understanding User Perceptions of Security and Privacy for Group Chat: A Survey of Users in the US and UK at the 2020 Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC). This paper examines how users view secure group chat, identifying their key concerns, and exploring how they manage their security. Click on the link to the paper to see the video of the presentation.



Research