05-436 / 05-836 / 08-534 / 08-734 Usable Privacy and Security

Fall 2011: GHC 4102, Tuesdays and thursdays 3-4:20 pm
Class web site: http://cups.cs.cmu.edu/courses/ups-fa11/
Class mailing list: http://cups.cs.cmu.edu/mailman/listinfo/ups

Students in this course may also be interested in joining the CUPS mailing list.

This course does not use Blackboard.

Professor: Lorrie Cranor
Email: lorrie AT cmu DOT edu
Web: http://lorrie.cranor.org/
Phone: 412-268-7534
Office: CIC 2207
Office hours: Mondays 9:30-11:30 am and by appointment

Teaching assistant: Rich Shay
Email: rshay AT cmu DOT edu
Office hours: by appointment

Course Description

There is growing recognition that technology alone will not provide all of the solutions to security and privacy problems. Human factors play an important role in these areas, and it is important for security and privacy experts to have an understanding of how people will interact with the systems they develop. This course is designed to introduce students to a variety of usability and user interface problems related to privacy and security and to give them experience in designing studies aimed at helping to evaluate usability issues in security and privacy systems. The course is suitable both for students interested in privacy and security who would like to learn more about usability, as well as for students interested in usability who would like to learn more about security and privacy. Much of the course will be taught in a graduate seminar style in which all students will be expected to do a weekly reading assignment and each week different students will prepare a presentation for the class. Students will also work on a group project throughout the semester.


Readings will be assigned from the following texts (available in the CMU bookstore and from all the usual online stores). Additional readings will be assigned from papers available online or handed out in class.

Additional readings will be assigned from the course reading list. Most of these readings are in papers available online. In cases where a subscription is required for access, access should be available for free when you are coming from a CMU IP address (on campus or via CMU VPN).

Course Schedule

Note, this is subject to change. The class web site will have the most up-to-date version of this calendar.




To be done before coming to class

Tuesday, August 30

Course overview and introductions

Thursday, September 1

A Framework for Reasoning About the Human in the Loop [slides]

  • Approaches to making security usable
  • Human-in-the-loop framework
  • Human threat identification and mitigation process

Required reading:

Optional reading: Motivation, models, and approaches; Research Methods, Chapter 1 Introduction

Tuesday, September 6

Introduction to HCI methods and UI design [slides]

  • Usability and user interfaces
  • Design
  • Prototyping
  • Evaluation

Required reading:

  • Security and Usability, Chapter 1 Psychological Acceptability Revisited (M. Bishop)
  • Security and Usability, Chapter 2 The Case for Usable Security (M. A. Sasse and I. Flechais)
  • Security and Usability, Chapter 3 Design for Usability (B. Tognazzini)

Optional reading: Motivation, models, and approaches

Bring completed presentation topic preference form to class

Thursday, September 8

Designing experiments [slides]

  • Types of experiments
  • Experimental design process
  • Group exercise on experiment design in class

Required reading:

  • Security and Usability, Chapter 4 Usability Design and Evaluation for Privacy and Security Solutions (C.M. Karat, C. Brodie, and J. Karat)
  • Research Methods, Chapter 2 Experimental Research
  • Research Methods, Chapter 3 Experimental Design

Optional reading: HCI methods and experimental design

Homework 1 due - Reading summaries from 9/1, 9/6 and 9/8; complete CITI human subjects training and submit a printout of your confirmation with your homework (if you already did the NIH or CITI training just print out your confirmation again) [+ summary of 1 optional reading]

Tuesday, September 13

Surveys, interviews, and focus groups

Required reading:

Optional reading: HCI methods and experimental design; Research Methods, Chapter 6 Diaries; Research Methods, Chapter 7 Case Studies

Thursday, September 15

Mechanical Turk studies

Required reading:

Optional reading: HCI methods and experimental design

Homework 2 due - Reading summaries from 9/13 and 9/15; conduct password survey with at least 8 Andrew account holders and enter data into class spreadsheet (links to survey and spreadsheet to be provided) [+summary of 1 optional reading]

Tuesday, September 20

Introduction to security

  • Guest speaker: Lujo Bauer

Required reading:

  • Security and Usability, Chapter 13 Goals and Strategies for Secure Interaction Design (K. Yee)
  • Security and Usability, Chapter 34 Why Johnny Can't Encrypt (A. Whitten and J. D. Tygar)
  • Research Methods, Chapter 4 Statistical Analysis

Optional reading: Security and threat modeling

Thursday, September 22

Introduction to privacy

  • Defining privacy
  • Online privacy issues
  • Privacy by design
  • Discussion of Braunstein et al. 2011

Go over project topics and distribute project preference forms

Required reading:

  • Security and Usability, Chapter 19 Privacy Issues and Human-Computer Interaction (M. Ackerman and S. Mainwaring)
  • Security and Usability, Chapter 21 Five Pitfalls in the Design for Privacy (S. Lederer, J. Hong, A. Dey, and J. Landay)
  • Security and Usability, Chapter 24 Informed Consent by Design (B. Friedman, P. Lin, and J. Miller)
  • A. Braunstein, L. Granka, and J. Staddon. Indirect Content Privacy Surveys: Measuring Privacy Without Asking About It. SOUPS 2011.

Optional reading: Privacy

Homework 3 due - Reading summaries from 9/13 and 9/15; Analyze class password survey data (do not do entropy estimates) and compare these results with Shay et al 2010, discuss how well the class study replicated the original paper and what might account for any differences in results (counts as extra homework) [+ summary of 1 optional reading]

Tuesday, September 27

Observing users in the field

  • Experience sampling

Warning design study, Part 1

Required reading:

Optional reading: HCI methods and experimental design; Research Methods, Chapter 9 Ethnography; Research Methods, Chapter 11 Analyzing Qualitative Data

Return project preference forms

Thursday, September 29

Security warnings

  • Warning design study: part 2
  • Guest lecture: Cristian Bravo-Lillo

Required reading:

Optional reading: Warnings

Homework 4 due - Reading summaries from 9/27, 9/29 [+ summary of 1 optional reading]

Tuesday, October 4

Laboratory studies

Required reading:

Optional reading: HCI methods and experimental design

Thursday, October 6

Privacy and mobile and ubiquitous computing [student presentations - Wiese, Cranshwa]

Required reading:

Optional reading: Privacy in mobile and ubiquitous computing

Homework 5 due - Reading summaries from 10/4, 10/6; observations report (counts as extra homework) [+ summary of 1 optional reading]

Tuesday, October 11

Privacy policies [student presentations - Samat, Gordon]

Required reading:

  • Security and Usability, Chapter 22 Privacy Policies and Privacy Preferences (L. Cranor)
  • Security and Usability, Chapter 33 Usability and Privacy: A Study of Kazaa P2P File Sharing (N. Good and A. Krekelberg)

Optional reading: Privacy policies

One-page project proposal due

Thursday, October 13

Privacy software [student presentations - Hiruncharoenvate, Leon]

Required reading:

  • Security and Usability, Chapter 20 A User-Centric Privacy Space Framework (B. Brunk)
  • Security and Usability, Chapter 23 Privacy Analysis for the Casual User Through Bugnosis (D. Martin)
  • Security and Usability, Chapter 26 Anonymity Loves Company: Usability and the Network Effect (R. Dingledine and N. Mathewson)

Optional reading: Privacy

Homework 6 due - Reading summaries from 10/11, 10/13 [+ summary of 1 optional reading]

Tuesday, October 18

Web browser privacy and security [student presentations - Balebako, Lee]

Required reading:

  • Security and Usability, Chapter 25 Social Approaches to End-User Security and Privacy Management (J. Goecks and E. Mynatt)
  • Security and Usability, Chapter 28 Firefox and the Worry-free Web
  • Z. Ye, S. Smith, and N. Anthony. Trusted Paths for Browsers. ACM Transactions on Information System Security. 8 (2): 153-186. May 2005.

Optional reading: Web browser privacy and security

Thursday, October 20

PKIs and secure communication [student presentations - Maass, Ur]

Required reading:

  • Security and Usability, Chapter 16 Making the Impossible Easy: Usable PKI (D. Balfanz, G. Durfee, and D.K. Smetters)
  • Security and Usability, Chapter 30 Embedding Security in Collaborative Applications: A Lotus/Domino Perspective (M.E. Zurko)
  • A. Studer, C. Johns, J. Kase, K. O'Meara, L. Cranor. A Survey to Guide Group Key Protocol Development. Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC) 2008.

Optional reading: PKIs and secure communication

Homework 7 due - Reading summaries from 10/18, 10/20 [+ summary of 1 optional reading]

Tuesday, October 25

Trust and semantic attacks [student presentations - Das, NcConahy]

Required reading:

  • Security and Usability, Chapter 5 Designing Secure Systems that People will Trust (A. Patrick, P. Briggs, and S. Marsh)
  • Security and Usability, Chapter 14 Fighting Phishing at the User Interface (R. Miller and M. Wu)
  • Security and Usability, Chapter 29 Usability and Security at Microsoft (C. Nodder)

Optional reading: Trust and semantic attacks

Thursday, October 27

User education [student presentations - Baik, Zeng]

Required reading:

Optional reading: User education

Homework 8 due - Reading summaries from 10/25, 10/27 [+ summary of 1 optional reading]

Tuesday, November 1

Progress report presentations

Progress reports due

Thursday, November 3

Progress report presentations

Required reading:

Tuesday, November 8 [election day]


  • Guest lecture: Rich Shay

Required reading:

  • Security and Usability, Chapter 7 The Memorability and Security of Passwords (J. Yan, A. Blackwell, R. Anderson, and A. Grant)
  • Security and Usability, Chapter 32 Users are not the Enemy (A. Adams and M.A. Sasse)

Optional reading: Authentication

Thursday, November 10

Graphical passwords [student presentations - Xu, Yoon]

Required reading:

Optional reading: Authentication

Homework 9 due - Reading summaries from 11/3, 11/8, 11/10 [+ summary of 1 optional reading]

Tuesday, November 15

Challenge questions and password alternatives [student presentations - Graves, Xia]

Required reading:

Optional reading: Authentication

Thursday, November 17

Access control and policy configuration [student presentations - Sleeper, Wang]

Required reading:

Optional reading: Access control and policy management

Homework 10 due - Reading summaries from 11/15, 11/17 [+ summary of 1 optional reading]

Tuesday, November 22

Tools for security administration [student presentations - Hibshi, Vidas]

Required reading:

Optional reading: Tools for security administration

Thursday, November 24

Thanksgiving break, no class

Tuesday, November 29

Biometrics [student presentations - Owusu]

Required reading:

  • Security and Usability, Chapter 10 Biometric Authentication (L. Coventry)
  • Security and Usability, Chapter 11 Identifying Users from Their Typing Patterns (A. Peacock, X. Ke, and M. Wilkerson)

Optional reading: Authentication

Thursday, December 1

no class

Tuesday, December 6


Homework 11 due - Reading summaries from 11/22, 11/29, 12/6 [+ summary of 1 optional reading]

Thursday, December 8


This class will have no final exam, however, the final exam period December TBA in TBA, will be used for final project presentations. Final project papers will be due at the exam period.

Course Requirements and Grading

You are responsible for being familiar with the university standard for academic honesty and plagiarism. Please see the CMU Student Handbook for information. In order to deter and detect plagiarism, online tools and other resources may be used in this class. Students caught cheating or plagiarizing will receive no credit for the assignment on which the cheating occurred. Additional actions -- including assigning the student a failing grade in the class or referring the case for disciplinary action -- may be taken at the discretion of the instructor.

For students taking the 12-unit version of this course, your final grade in this course will be based on:

For students taking the 9-unit version of this course, your final grade in this course will be based on:


Homework assignments for this class will include reading summaries as well as written assignments. All homework is due in printed form in class at 3:00 pm each Thursday (unless otherwise specified). Homework submitted after 3:15 pm will be considered late. Homework will be graded as check-plus (100%), check (80%), check-minus (60%) or 0. If you turn in a complete assignment but provide no interesting insights you will get a check. To earn a check-plus requires that you complete the assignment and provide insightful comments. Late homework will receive one grade lower than it would have otherwise received if it is submitted no later than at the beginning of the next class meeting (after that it will not be accepted). Your two lowest homework grades will be dropped from your homework average.

Students are expected to do reading assignments prior to class so that they can participate fully in class discussions. Students must submit a short summary (3-8 sentences) and a "highlight" for each chapter or article in the reading assignment. The highlight may be something you found particularly interesting or noteworthy, a question you would like to discuss in class, a point you disagree with, etc.

Students taking the 12-unit version of this course are expected to include a summary and highlight for one optional reading of their choice each week. Suggested optional readings are provided, but students may choose other relevant optional readings. All other students are encouraged to review some of the optional readings that they find interesting, but they need not submit summaries or highlights of the optional readings.


Each student taking the 12-unit version of this course will be assigned a class lecture to prepare and present (either individually or with a small group of other students). The lecture should be based on the topics covered in that week's reading assignment, but it should go beyond the materials in the required reading. Do not present a lecture that simply summarizes the assigned reading. For example, you might read and present some of the related work mentioned in the reading or that you find on your own (the HCISec Bibliography is a good starting point for finding papers), you might present some of the relevant optional reading materials (feel free to use relevant materials from other weeks), you might demonstrate software mentioned in the reading, you might critique a design discussed in the reading, or you might design a class exercise for your classmates. If the material you present describes a user study, include a detailed description and critique of the study design. As part of your lecture you should prepare several discussion questions and lead a class discussion. You should also introduce your fellow students to terminology and concepts they might not be familiar with that are necessary to understand the material you are presenting. You should email to the instructor a set of PowerPoint slides including lecture notes and discussion questions. These slides will be posted on the class web site. In addition, the instructor may include all or part of your presentation slides and notes in an instructor's guide for future usable privacy and security courses.


Students will work on semester projects in small groups that include students with a variety of areas of expertise. A choice of projects will be provided and students will be given an opportunity to indicate their preferences before projects are assigned. Students who have their own ideas for projects should discuss them with the instructor early in the semester. As part of the project students will:

Students are encouraged to submit their project to the Symposium On Usable Privacy and Security as either a paper or poster. A paper submission will likely require some additional work after the end of the semester. To submit a poster will require only submitting a 2-page abstract. The instructor will provide funds for one student from each project team to attend the SOUPS conference if their paper or poster is accepted.

Students signed up for the 12-unit version of this course are expected to play a leadership role in a project group and write a project paper suitable for publication. Unless your group has only students signed up for the 9-unit course in it, that means your final paper should be written in a style suitable for publication at a conference or workshop. The conference papers in the optional readings provide some good examples of what a conference paper looks like and the style in which they are written. In addition to describing what you did in your study, your paper should include a related work section and properly-formatted references. Papers should follow the SOUPS 2011 technical papers formatting instructions. If you have identified an alternative relevant conference and would prefer to use that conference's submission format for your paper, please discuss it with the instructor.